Sunday, January 29, 2006

What does Captain James Yee have to say in his book?

Faith & Patriotism Under Fire
Ayub Khan Special to Arab News Review

It is no secret that Muslims in the United States and elsewhere live under constant scrutiny and suspicion. They are often asked to prove their loyalties to the countries of their residence. It is one thing to doubt the loyalties of relative new comers. It is another to doubt, on spurious grounds, the loyalty of a person whose patriotism would make others envious. These are uncertain times, however, and no one is above suspicion. James Yee’s “For God and Country” proves how deep rooted the suspicion is.

Former US Army Muslim Chaplain Captain James Yee has an impressive background and stellar credentials. A third generation Chinese-American, he graduated from West Point. He was a commissioned officer in the US Army for 14 years. He traveled to Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War as part of his military service. The tour turned out to be fateful as it sparked his interest in Islam and he soon converted. To strengthen his religious knowledge he went to Damascus, Syria and studied under traditional scholars for four years. He also married a Syrian.

In 2001 he was commissioned as one of the first Muslim chaplains in the United States Army. He was sought after as a spokesman in order to educate soldiers about Islam and Muslims. Subsequently, he was selected to serve as the Muslim Chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay where detainees from Afghanistan and elsewhere are being held as “unlawful combatants.” When he first landed at Guantanamo Bay he received some valuable advice from the previous chaplain. “There are other things about this place that will be a little harder to take,” said Chaplain Hamza. “I don’t want to discourage you on your first night, but you need to be prepared. This is not a friendly environment for Muslims, and I don’t just mean th

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why aren't Muslims buying Danish cheese anymore?

Boycott of Danish Goods Over Blasphemous Cartoons
Javid Hasan & Abdul Hannan Faisal Tago
Arab News

RIYADH, 27 January 2006 — Abdullah Al-Othaim, executive president of Al-Othaim Holding Company, reaffirmed yesterday his company’s boycott of Danish products until that country’s largest daily apologizes for publishing 12 cartoons that mocked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Al-Othaim said that just as Denmark has freedom of the press, Muslims have freedom to buy or not to buy. The company is comprised of five subsidiaries (Al-Othaim Supermarket, Al-Othaim Mall, Entertainment, Training Center and Al-Othaim Commercial Group) and owns around 60 branches across the Kingdom.
Al-Othaim’s decision, which he says includes a boycott of any supplier that includes Danish products, may help to impact SR1.3 billion worth of exports to Saudi Arabia.

The cartoons published by the private-run Jyllands-Posten daily have sparked an uproar in the Muslim world, since images of the Prophet are considered blasphemous.
Danish food giant Arla Foods said in Copenhagen yesterday it was being targeted by the Saudi boycott because of the publication of the offensive cartoons.
Arla Foods is Europe’s second-largest dairy company and the leading Danish exporter to Saudi Arabia, where it sells an estimated two billion kroner ($328 million) worth of products every year.
“More and more supermarkets are taking our products off their shelves and don’t want fresh supplies because consumers no longer want to buy our brand,” Arla Foods spokesman Louis Honore told AFP. “The situation is very serious.”
Arla Foods sales staff had been summoned by major Saudi customers who were threatening to stop buying Arla butter and cheeses unless the Danish government officially apologized for the cartoons, he said.

Officials in Muslim countries and various religious bodies have voiced their indignation over the cartoons.

In a statement yesterday, Dr. Saleh Al-Wohaibi, secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), called the newspaper’s actions part of “a culture of Islamophobia” and asked the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member countries to take a firm united stand against such indiscretions by forming a concerted action plan. The OIC and the Muslim World League (MWL) have both issued statements condemning the images.

Al-Wohaibi said WAMY rejects outright any justification behind “such uncivilized behavior in the name of freedom of expression.”
“(The WAMY) firmly believes that all prophets (peace be upon them) should be kept away from derogatory and slanderous attacks, because these were the chosen lot of the Almighty to guide humanity on the right path,” said Wohaibi. “Therefore, mocking at the prophets (peace be upon them) is highly degrading and subverts the call for human values and freedom of faith advocated by the United Nations Charter.”

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he pointed out, is a role model for Muslims around the world and occupies a supreme position in the hearts and minds of every Muslim, who is ready to sacrifice his life and property for his cause. His love and affection for him far exceeds the love of his family members.

“In the light of the principles of our religion and human values, which respect beliefs of other religions and in an effort to soothe the sentiments of the aggrieved Muslim community, WAMY appeals to the governments of the Muslim countries to understand their obligations and responsibilities toward their citizens and launch a campaign to make sure that such inflammatory attacks on Islam and the Prophet do not recur in future,” said Wohaibi.
WAMY also sought an unconditional apology from the governments of Denmark and Norway for their failure to take action against those responsible for the blasphemous cartoons and called on them to commit themselves to the principle of respect for religions.
It also urged the international community and institutions to stand firmly against repetition of such outrageous incidents and punish the culprits who deliberately provoke over one billion Muslims as part of their hostile propaganda against Islam.

Al-Wohabi said: “We would also like to draw the attention of those scholars, thinkers and leaders of the world who are working for the cause of justice and world peace not to ignore such uncivilized behavior that only emboldens the critics of Islam to launch more vituperative attacks against this religion. Sowing such feelings of hatred will only undermine the efforts of some noble souls who are striving to bring nations together for a comprehensive world peace.”

Calls for the boycott have been distributed by phone text messages and in the media. The messages include a list of Danish products, including Lurpak, Nido and KDD.

“Boycotting Danish products is the simple act that we can do,” said consumer Abu Talal.
But Mohammad Al-Rashid had a different tune. “Both the newspaper and cartoonists are not representing the people of Denmark,” Rashid said, quoting a verse from the Qur’an: “You are not liable of a sin what others do.”

The Danish Embassy in the Kingdom reiterated its government’s stand that condemns any expression, action or indication that attempt to demonize groups of people on the basis of their religion or ethnic background.
Denmark’s state prosecutor Peter Broendt Joergensen said Saturday that the drawings were protected by his country’s freedom of speech laws. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has also said that the government has no say over media content.
The general reaction in Riyadh was that freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to act irresponsibly.

Typical of such comment came from a marketing executive Muneef Ali Mirza who said: “No newspaper or magazine in the Muslim world would ever think of publishing any damaging article against Jesus or Moses or any other prophet (peace be upon them), since all of them are highly respected in Islam. That’s the difference between the Islamic and the Western society.”

On Sept. 30, the daily ran an article about freedom of speech centering around the issue that artists were unwilling to illustrate the Prophet (pbuh) without remaining anonymous for fear of being attacked by extremists. The paper accompanied the article with a dozen depictions of the prophet by various Danish illustrators, including one showing the Prophet with a bomb in his head wrap and another that appeared to be criticizing the paper itself for its “PR stunt”.

The illustrations were reprinted by a Norwegian magazine on Jan. 10 alongside an article about the controversy and have appeared on at least one media blog.
“When someone offends the Prophet (pbuh), it is not only just a local problem but also affects Muslims worldwide,” Abdul Wahid Petersen, a leading imam in Denmark, was quoted as saying on Danish public radio.
— With input from agencies

Monday, January 23, 2006

How old are the oldest copies of the Qur'an?

There has been a polemic going on that the Qur'an does not have manuscripts from the first century of hijra. However, this is not true. Many fragments of early Qur'anic manuscripts were shown by Orientalists notably Nabia Abbott in her work The Rise of the North Arabic script and its Kur'anic development, with a full description of the Kur'an manuscripts in the Oriental Institute (1939, University of Chicago Press). There she discusses some of the Quranic manuscripts, dated from second half of the first century hijra onwards, at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.

To see samples of the earliest copies of the Qur'an and other *extremely* interesting information,compiled in dedicated detail, click here

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What does it take to be a "Miss Muslim"?

By Damir Ahmed,

IOL Correspondent
MOSCOW , January 21, 2006 ( –

Morality and impressive knowledge of Islam and other subjects were the basic criteria for choosing Dilar Sadiqova as "Miss Muslim" in the eastern European country of Tatarstan.
"I decided to take part in the competition to convey the message that you can be a Muslim and still do whatever you want as long as it is moral and respectable," Sadiqova told reporters after her acceptance speech.
"Thus, non-Muslims can have an undistorted vision of our religion," added the 17-year-old high school student, who wish to be a school teacher.

There was no room in the competition for girls in swimsuits like the traditional beauty pageants, but modestly-dressed and hijab-donned girls in demure smiles, the organizers told
Brains and religiosity set the tone for the unprecedented contest in Tatarstan, where Muslims make up 60 percent of the country’s four million population.

The competition included Qur’an memorization and recitation tests, as well as a set of questions, testing cultural mettle of the 56 contesters.

They also took cooking and sewing tests for more points.
Only eight girls, aged 15-19, made it to the finals of the cut-throat competition.
The ceremony was held at the Celebrations Hall of the Grand Mosque in the capital city of Kazan . The audience were all females.

Saida Abukofa, the head of the jury, said the competition aims to encourage more Muslim girls who do not wear hijab to take on the Islamic dress code.
"They see their Muslim peers who wear hijab as beautiful, well-educated and religious," she added.
"We want to show that beauty has nothing to do with nudity and obscenity."
Under Islam, beauty contests in which women’s `awrah (parts of the body which should not be exposed in front of others) is uncovered, are prohibited.
Muslim scholars have called on Muslim countries to organize a "Miss Morality" competition to offset the increasing interest by Muslim nations in Western-styled beauty contests.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

How many remarkable Muslims have you met?

Lisa Kaaki
Special to Arab News

Since 9/11 there has been an international interest in the Islamic world which has continued to the present. One of the latest efforts to shed some new light on Muslims comes in the form of a delightful book: “Meetings With Remarkable Muslims, a Collection of Travel Writing.”

The idea for the book came after the editors, Barnaby Rogerson and Rose Baring, witnessed the marches in London protesting against the invasion of Iraq: “Realizing that the lies, half-truths and manufactured fears by which this war had been sold to the public were backed by the images of the Islamic world latched onto by our media — of bearded fanatics, suicide bombers and veiled gunmen — it seemed important to offer a broader, truer picture. As anyone who has traveled regularly within the Muslim world will know, this perception is willfully, even perhaps maliciously, false. “

The collection is divided into three parts, “Here and Now,” “Memories,” and “Ghosts,” in which the authors show the lives of Muslims, highlighting the varieties of their practices and traditions. The book is more than anything about ordinary Muslims leading ordinary lives: “There are no world-famous presidents, revolutionary colonels, or publicity-hungry preachers in this world-view. Instead it is the porters, drivers, smugglers, musicians, teachers, mothers, neighbors and restaurateurs who are cherished for the example of their ordinary lives,” say the authors.

Although most of the writers in this collection would not describe themselves as writers at all, the pieces are beautifully written. Alberto Cairo, a lawyer by profession, has been making prosthetic arms and legs in Kabul for the past fifteen years. In 1996, he was described on the front page of the International Herald Tribune as “the most beloved foreigner in Afghanistan.” His personal account of life in Kabul is of a country still searching for peace: “In Kabul new restaurants and pizzerias are opening all the time with exotic foreign names such as Golden Lotus, The Great Wall, New York Restaurant; the cinemas show romantic Indian films with songs and violence; you see mobile phones everywhere, the traffic is chaotic, much of the city is a building site, refugees have returned in their thousands. Life seems to be surging ahead triumphantly. But peace has not yet spread through the land. “

In another piece, Robin Hanbury-Tenison writes about his life with his Tuareg companions when they wandered through the northern Air Mountains, a part of the Sahara few outsiders have ever visited — or even know about. In a moving account of his travels, he praises his companions who “would die rather than let anything happen to me... In my whole life I have never felt safer, more wrapped in friendship. “

Brigid Keenan, a diplomat’s wife who has lived in Muslim countries for more than ten years, was impressed by Thala Khair, “the daughter-in-law of a Syrian Defense Minister and the wife of a colonel in the Syrian Republican Guard; she doesn’t sound like an obvious choice but that’s one reason I decided on her; she goes against all the stereotypes — of Syrians, and of women in the Arab world” writes Keenan.

Eamonn Gearon learnt the traditional skills for living and traveling in the desert and later moved to the oasis of Siwa where he lived eighteen months and befriended Muhammad: “I was lucky to have him as my friend when I lived in the oasis... Since Sept. 11, 2001, I have thought a great deal about jihad, and my friend Muhammad whose example showed what it means to be a jihadi. As surely as jihad can mean fighting the enemy without, so must it also be understood as the fight against the enemy within, fighting the urge to sin, and through introspection trying to defeat evil. It is in this way that the believer wages jihad daily. To fight the good fight.” writes Gearon.

One of the most moving stories of the book is told by William Dalrymple, author of the much praised “White Mughals.” Presently living in New Delhi, Dalrymple writes about his meeting with Dr Jaffrey, a scholar who converted an often illegible manuscript which was a court chronicle of Shah Jehan into clear Persian typescript, and then had it translated into English by a team of Persian scholars in America. The manuscript deals with the golden age of the Mughals when India, Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan were ruled from the Red Fort in Delhi.
From his small, dark room in the heart of Old Delhi, Dr Jaffrey speaks about changing times: “Today there are no longer any educated men in the old city. I am a stranger in my own home... All the learning, all the manners have gone... Everything is so crude now. Here everyone has forgotten the old courtesies. For example... in the old days, a man of my standing would never have gone to the shops — everything would be sent to his house: Grain, chilies, cotton, cloth. All these things have gone now. People see the educated man living in poverty and realize that learning is useless; they decide it is better to remain ignorant.” But more than his knowledge and devotion to his scholarly work, it is Dr. Jaffrey’s faith which impresses Dalrymple. When Dalrymple confesses that he is no longer sure what he believes in, Dr. Jaffrey tells him: “You make God sound so complicated. God is simple. To follow him is not difficult.

For John Carswell, the most remarkable Muslim is Fazlar Khan, the designer of the famed Sears Towers as well as the striking Haj Terminal in Jeddah: “It was not just that he was a structural engineer of genius, but that he was also an extraordinarily nice and intelligent person, and a great humanist.”

It is impossible to mention all the pieces but one cannot ignore Sabiha Al Khemir’s emotional encounters with exceptional characters such as Mary Belle, a black American she met in Central Park during a lunch break. During their conversation, Sabiha believes that Mary Belle doesn’t know anything about Muslim Arab women until she hears her say, “Al-Hamdullilah.” She then realizes how prejudiced she had been: “Mary Belle was a Muslim? Having heard her thank God in those Arabic words startled me, bringing the insight that it was she who was invisible to me and that a Muslim could also be a large, black, American woman eating a hamburger in Central Park.”

This enjoyable book has become, in the words of the authors, “A testament to friendships and to the chance encounters that unexpectedly enhance our lives. It is also about how the Islamic world continues to enchant, delight and bemuse the West. It has no political subtext follows no academic discipline and sharpens no doctrinal axe.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"God will bring you to your knees, Jeffrey!"

"Dad, do you believe in Heaven?"

When young Jeffery asked his father about the existence of heaven as they walked their dog along the beach, it was apparent that this child possessed a highly inquisitive mind. There perhaps was also a sign that he would subject things to a logical scrutiny and validate them from a rational perspective. It was little surprise that one day he would end up being a professor of mathematics, a matter subject that leaves no place for anything but logic.

During his senior years at the Notre Dame Boys High, a Catholic school, he formed certain rational objections against belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. Discussions with the school priest, his parents, and classmates could not convince him of the existence of God, and to the dismay of the priest and his parents, he turned into an atheist at the age of eighteen. He was to remain so for the next ten years, throughout his undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies. It was a little after his becoming an atheist that he first saw the following dream:

There was a tiny room with no furniture, and there was
nothing on its grayish-white walls. Its only adornment was the predominantly red-and-white patterned carpet that covered the floor. There was a small window, like a basement window, above and facing us, filling the room with bril­liant light. We were in rows; I was in the third. There were only men, no women, and all of us were sitting on our heels and facing the direction of the window.
It felt foreign. I recognized no one. Perhaps I was in another country. We bowed down uniformly, our faces to the floor. It was serene and quiet, as if all sound had been turned off. All at once, we sat back on our heels. As I looked ahead, I realized that we were being led by someone in front who was off to my left, in the middle, below the window. He stood alone. I only had the briefest glance at his back. He was wearing a long white gown, and on
his head was a white scarf with a red design. And that is when I would awaken.

During the next ten years of his atheist life, he was to see the same dream several times. He would not be disturbed by the dream, however, for he would feel strangely comfortable when he awoke. But not knowing what it was, he could not make any sense out of it and thus gave no importance to it despite its repetitions.

Ten years later in his first lecture at the University of San Francisco, he met a Muslim student who attended his mathematics class. He was soon to develop a friendship with him and his family. Religion, however, was not the topic of discussion during the time he shared with that Muslim family, and it was much later that one of the family members handed to him a copy of the Qur'an.
He was not looking for a religion. Nevertheless, he started reading the Qur'an, but with a strong prejudice.

"You cannot simply read the Qur'an, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges. From the outset it draws the line of battle, and I was on the other side."
Thus he found himself in an interesting battle. "I was at a severe disadvantage, for it became clear that the Author knew me better than I knew myself."It was as if the Author was reading his mind. Every night he would make up certain questions and objections, but would find the answer in his next readings as he continued his readings in the accepted order. "The Qur'an was always way ahead of my thinking; it was erasing barriers I had built years ago and was addressing my queries."

He fought vigorously with objections and questions, but it was apparent that he was loosing the battle. "I was being led, working my way into a corner that contained only one choice."

It was early 80's and there were not many Muslims at the University of San Francisco campus. He discovered a small place at the basement of a church where a few Muslim students made their daily prayers. After much struggle in his mind, he came up with enough courage to go and visit that place. When he came out of that place a few hours later, he had already declared the shahadah, the proclamation of a new life, "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger."
After he made his proclamation, it was the time for the afternoon prayer and he was invited to participate. He stood up in rows with other students behind a prayer leader named Ghassan, and started following them in prayer and:

We bowed down in prostration with our faces on the red-and-white carpet. It was serene and quiet, as if the sound had been turned off. And then we sat back on our heels again.
As I looked ahead, I could see Ghassan, off to my left, in
the middle, below the window that was flooding the room with light. He was alone, without a row. He was wearing a long white gown and on his head was a white scarf with a red design.
The dream! I screamed inwardly. The dream exactly! I had forgotten it completely, and now I was stunned and frightened. Am I dreaming? I wondered. Will I awaken? I tried to focus on what was happening to determine whether I was asleep. A rush of cold flowed through my body, making me shudder. My God, this is real! Then the coldness subsided, succeeded by gentle warmth radiating from within. Tears welled up in my eyes.

Everyone's journey to Islam is unique, varying from one another in many different ways, but Dr. Lang's is an interesting one. From one who had once challenged the existence of God, he became a firm believer in God. From a warrior who fought a fierce battler against the Qur'an, he became one who surrendered to it. From one who never knew love and who only wanted to live a comfortable materialistic life until he died and become "long-forgotten soil underneath an unmarked grave," he turned into one whose life became full of love, mercy, and spiritualism.

"God will bring you to your knees, Jeffery!" said his father when he denied the existence of God at the age of eighteen. Ten years later, that became a reality. He was now on his knees, and his forehead on the ground. The highest part of his body that contained all of his knowledge and intellect was now on the lowest ground in complete submission before the majesty of God.
Like all Muslim reverts, Dr. Lang felt that he was favored by God's mercy and that it was God Himself who directed him to Islam:
I perceived that God was always near, directing my life, creating the circumstances and opportunities to choose, yet always leaving the crucial choices to me. I was awestruck by the realization of the intimacy and love that reveals, not because we deserve it, but because it is always there and all we have to do is turn to Him to receive it. I cannot say with certainty what the meaning of that vision was, but I could not help seeing in it a sign, a favor, and a new chance.

Dr. Lang is author of two books — both make interesting readings and are useful for both Muslim converts and born Muslims to read. He is married and has three daughters.

Lang, Jeffrey. Struggling to Surrender. Beltsville: 1994.
Lang, Jeffrey. Even Angels Ask. Beltsville: 1997.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

What makes 300 million Muslims laugh?

In the hilarious new film LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD, comedian Albert Brooks gets summoned by politician/actor Fred Dalton Thompson to come to Washington D.C. to help in a new diplomatic effort.
His job? Spend a month in India and Pakistan, write a 500 page report, and tell the U.S. government what makes the over 300 million Muslims in the region laugh.

While Brooks isn't sure he's the man for the job, the possibility of a Medal of Freedom proves irresistible and he accepts.With the aid of two government agents, Stuart (John Carrol Lynch), Mark (Jon Tenney), and a lovely assistant, Maya (Sheetal Sheth), Brooks starts the interviewing process, as soon as he lands in India, asking everyone, "What makes you laugh?"

Since people aren't as forthcoming as he would like, and when he discovers there are no comedy clubs in India or Pakistan that would help him observe, he decides to put on The Big Show, the first comedy concert in New Delhi. He figures that by what the audience laughs at, he'll get what he needs for his important government assignment. He figured wrong. Undaunted, Brooks continues his quest, doing everything from a clandestine meeting with a group of Pakistani comedians, to a business meeting with Al Jezeera, all in the hopes of achieving his goal.

LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD provides an inspired and comedic view of America's approach towards other cultures. Written, directed by and starring Albert Brooks, the comedy also stars Sheetal Sheth, John Carroll Lynch, Jon Tenney, and Fred Dalton Thompson.--© Warner Independent

read on for an interview with Albert Brooks

Friday, January 13, 2006

what's the breaking news on the Makkah stampede?

Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede

Click here: Latest scenes

At least 345 Muslim pilgrims have died in a crush during the stone-throwing ritual at the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, officials say.
Hundreds of pilgrims have also been injured. A BBC correspondent at the scene in Mina saw dozens of bodies lined up on the ground.
The ritual has seen many lethal stampedes but the number of dead this time is the highest in 16 years.
After a crush in 2004, barriers and stewards were added to improve safety.

The stampede took place at the foot of the bridge of Jamarat, where pilgrims hurl stones at three pillars representing the spot where the devil is said to have appeared to Abraham.

An interior ministry spokesman, Maj Gen Mansour al-Turki, told the Associated Press news agency the crush happened after pieces of luggage spilled from moving buses in front of one of the entrances to the bridge, causing pilgrims to trip.
At least 289 people were injured, according to the Saudi Health Minister Hamad bin Abdullah al-Maneh.

With the local hospital in Mina overflowing, many victims of the crush were transported to medical facilities in Mecca and Riyadh, a doctor told AP.
Many of the victims were reportedly from south and south-east Asia.
More than two million people were thought to have been performing the rite at the time. Witness Abdullah Pulig, an Indian street-cleaner, described a scene of carnage.

"I saw people moving and suddenly I heard crying, shouting, wailing. I looked around and people were piling on each other. They started pulling dead people from the crowd," he told AP.
Suad Abu Hamada, an Egyptian pilgrim, told the agency he heard screaming and "saw people jumping over each other".
"It was like the road of death in there," said another pilgrim, quoted by Reuters news agency, who spoke of women fainting amid elbowing crowds.

Ambulances and police cars streamed into the area, as security forces tried to move people away from the scene of the accident.
The pilgrims were returning via Mina after performing the Tawaf al-Wada, a farewell ceremony that involves walking around the Kaaba - a cube-like building in the centre of Mecca's Great Mosque - seven times.
The Tawaf al-Wada is performed after the Hajj has finished.
The stoning is the riskiest ritual of the Hajj, as worshippers jostle to try to target the stones, often causing weaker pilgrims to fall under foot.
In 2004, more than 200 pilgrims were trampled to death while performing the same ceremony.
The latest deadly stampede comes days after more than 70 people died when a hostel for pilgrims collapsed in the Saudi city of Mecca.
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and every able-bodied adult Muslim is obliged to perform it at least once in their lives.

What do Muslims say in the face of tragedy?

"Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere,

Who say, when afflicted with calamity: “innaa lillaahi wa innaa ilayhir raaji-oon -- to Allah we belong,and to Him is our return"

They are those on whom (descend) blessings from Allah, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance.

[Quran 2:155-157]

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Is Islamic slaughtering cruel?

Is Islamic Slaughtering Cruel to Animals?

Dr. Aisha El-Awady -
Islam’s stance on what is permissible to eat and what is not is clear. There are strict rules when it comes to meat regarding what is allowed and what is forbidden.

In Surat Al-Maida (The Table) Allah says: "Forbidden to you [for food] are: Al-Maytatah (the dead animals -cattle-beasts not slaughtered), blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah, or has been slaughtered for idols, etc., or on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering, and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns - and that which has been [partly] eaten by a wild animal - unless you are able to slaughter it [before its death] ­ and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on An­Nusub[ (stone altars). [Forbidden] also is to use arrows seeking luck or decision, [all] that is Fisqun (disobedience of Allah and sin). This day, those who disbelieved have given up all hope of your religion, so fear them not, but fear Me. This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin [such can eat these above-mentioned meats], then surely, Allah is Oft­Forgiving, Most Merciful."

The Islamic practice of slaughtering animals by means of a sharp cut to the front of the neck has frequently come under attack by some animal rights activists as being a form of animal cruelty, the claim being that it is a painful inhumane method of killing animals. In the West, it is required by law to stun the animals with a shot to the head before the slaughter, supposedly to render the animal unconscious and to prevent it from reviving before it is killed so as not to slow down the movement of the processing line. It is also used to prevent the animal from feeling pain before it dies.

German Research Studies Pain
It therefore may come as a surprise to those who have made such acclimations to learn of the results of a study carried out by Professor Wilhelm Schulze and his colleague Dr. Hazim at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover University in Germany. The study: ‘Attempts to Objectify Pain and Consciousness in Conventional (captive bolt pistol stunning) and Ritual (halal, knife) Methods of Slaughtering Sheep and Calves’ concludes that Islamic slaughtering is the most humane method of slaughter and that captive bolt stunning, practiced in the West, causes severe pain to the animal.
In the study, several electrodes were surgically implanted at various points of the skull of all animals, touching the surface of the brain. The animals were allowed to recover for several weeks. Some animals were then slaughtered by making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck cutting the jugular veins and the carotid arteries as well as the trachea and esophagus (Islamic method). Other animals were stunned using a Captive Bolt Pistol (CBP). During the experiment, an electroencephalograph (EEG) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) recorded the condition of the brain and the heart of all animals during the course of slaughter and stunning.

The results were as follows:
I – Islamic Method
1. The first three seconds from the time of Islamic slaughter as recorded on the EEG did not show any change from the graph before slaughter, thus indicating that the animal did not feel any pain during or immediately after the incision.
2. For the following 3 seconds, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep - unconsciousness. This is due to the large quantity of blood gushing out from the body.
3. After the above-mentioned 6 seconds, the EEG recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all.
4. As the brain message (EEG) dropped to zero level, the heart was still pounding and the body convulsing vigorously (a reflex action of the spinal cord) driving a maximum amount of blood from the body thus resulting in hygienic meat for the consumer.
II - Western method by C.B.P. Stunning
1. The animals were apparently unconscious soon after stunning.
2. EEG showed severe pain immediately after stunning.
3. The hearts of animals stunned by C.B.P. stopped beating earlier as compared to those of the animals slaughtered according to the Islamic method resulting in the retention of more blood in the meat. This in turn is unhygienic for the consumer.
Western-Style Slaughtering and Mad Cow’s Disease
Not only is this method of stunning animals before the slaughter severely painful as shown by the previous experiment, but there is also a rising concern that this method may be a factor in the spread of mad cow’s disease from cattle to humans as it was discovered in recent research carried out at Texas A&M University and by Canada’s Food Inspection Agency, that a method called pneumatic stunning (which is the firing of a metal bolt into the cow's brain followed by a pulverizing burst of 150 pounds of air pressure) delivered a force so explosive that it scattered brain tissue throughout the animal. This news is disturbing since the brain tissue and spinal cord are the most infectious parts of an animal with mad cow disease, which causes fatal Swiss cheese like holes in the brain of the infected animal. It is more disturbing to find out that around 30 to 40 percent of American cattle are stunned by pneumatic guns.

Islamic Regulations for the Slaughter
As one can see from the previous studies, Islamic slaughtering of animals is a blessing to both the animal and to humans alike. In order for the slaughtering to be lawful, several measures must be taken by the one performing the deed. This is to ensure the highest benefit to both the animal and the consumer.
In this regard, the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) said: "God calls for mercy in everything, so be merciful when you kill and when you slaughter: sharpen your blade to relieve its pain".
The object used to slaughter the animal should be sharp and used swiftly. The swift cutting of vessels of the neck disconnects the flow of blood to the nerves in the brain responsible for pain. Thus the animal does not feel pain. The movements and withering that happen to the animal after the cut is made are not due to pain, but due to the contraction and relaxation of the muscles deficient in blood. The prophet (peace be upon him) also taught Muslims neither to sharpen the blade of the knife in front of the animal nor to slaughter an animal in front of others of its own kind.
The cut should involve the windpipe (trachea), gullet (esophagus), and the two jugular veins without cutting the spinal cord. This method results in the rapid gush of blood draining most of it from the animal’s body. If the spinal cord is cut, the nerve fibers to the heart might be damaged leading to cardiac arrest thus resulting in stagnation of blood in the blood vessels. The blood must be drained completely before the head is removed. This purifies the meat by removing most of the blood that acts as a medium for microorganisms; meat also remains fresh longer as compared to other methods of slaughtering.
Therefore accusations of animal cruelty should very rightly be focused on those who do not use the Islamic way of slaughtering but prefer to use those methods which cause pain and agony to the animal and could also very well cause harm to those consuming the meat.

slaughtering and hunting of animals Islamic laws.1997
Corcoran, Leila Cattle
stun gun may heighten mad cow risk Reuters news service.25/7/1997
Slaughter of ruminants-use of pneumatic stunning with air inject The European Commission 17/02/1998
McAlister, Judith School of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover University.12/07/02
Naik, Zakir
Islamic way of slaughtering looks cruel
Aisha El-Awady has a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Cairo University and is currently working as instructor of Parasitology in the Faculty of Medicine. She may be contacted at

Monday, January 09, 2006

What was the scene on the first day of Hajj?

Haj Reflections: Day One
Siraj Wahab

Mina is a small city and as far as the eye can see, tents cover every open space. They have been neatly arranged, row after row. The entrances to many of the tents are decorated with banners and garlands, balloons fly over others, helping pilgrims identify their temporary residences from the sea of white fabric.
* * *
The pilgrims arrive in Mina with mixed feelings of joy and reflection. They think of the rituals they must perform so there is also trepidation. The pilgrims count themselves among the lucky to be in the tent city on this day. Their joy is unequaled.
And the whole exercise reminds them of life that has gone by, the wrongs they have committed and the time they have wasted. It is natural for them to reflect on the past and pray for inspiration in the future.
Tomorrow on the plains of Arafat they will bare their hearts before God and beseech Him to forgive them and bless them with their greatest desires. What tops the list of their prayers is often secret, perhaps something that they would admit to no one but God. However, there are some pilgrims who will confide their wishes. It is not surprising that a huge range of requests will be made to God here. Some prayers are for the general good of humanity; all pilgrims are praying for peace and for good sense to prevail.
Sajid Hassan Suleria from Kashmir will pray for a baby boy. “I have seven girls and I am hoping that God will bless us with a baby boy this time. I know that in Islam women command greater respect but in my society a boy is seen as a prized asset, as a companion of old age. I am undertaking this Haj to beseech God to grant us a baby boy,” Sarwar said.
* * *

The Saudi fast-food chain Al-Baik was making brisk business in Mina last night. Pilgrims queued up in large numbers at the chain’s four outlets in the tent city.
“The aluminum box with chicken nuggets and an assortment of fries, a bun and those delicious little boxes of garlic sauce is my obsession,” said 15-year-old Amina Sadeq who was part of an Egyptian group of pilgrims. “The moment I saw the bright red and yellow colors of Al-Baik near the Jamrat, I wanted it and kept pestering my parents to get me a box of nuggets. They were happy and immediately ordered Al-Baik for everybody.”
* * *

It is very cold and windy in Mina. Last night the men wrapped themselves tightly in their ihrams. They brought the material up around their necks and sat, for warmth with their legs tucked under their bodies. The female pilgrims from Indonesia and Malaysia had a hard time with the chilly temperatures. Riding through the city on a moped last night was difficult; it was simply too windy. There was a mild drizzle around Fajr yesterday.
* * *

As the crowds swell, movement is becoming more difficult. The drive from Jeddah to Mina yesterday took almost three hours; today local pilgrims said the same drive took six hours. Some pilgrims are also unaware that they should remain in their camps, engaging in prayer and resting for the trials to come. Some pilgrims have been visiting the Jamrat stoning area ahead of schedule. The police try to discourage them and are moving them away from the area rapidly. Keeping the pilgrims warm, rested and fed is foremost on the minds of the authorities. If the skies open up in a big way, efficient crowd control will be essential to prevent accidents and help the pilgrims complete the rituals on time.
* * *

Security officers are everywhere. They will not allow any vehicle to park, even for a minute, on the roadsides. Last night, Mina was a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of Makkah. It was not to last. By dawn the trickle of incoming pilgrims had turned into a flood. Sadly, many wore an air of confused desperation. Too many pilgrims were unable to locate their camps amid the sea of white tents. All the camps are numbered, but the exact division of the tent city is not clear. By knowing just the camp number it is impossible to find any specific location.
* * *

The increase in mobile telephone users puts enormous stress on the local telephone networks. It already takes several attempts to get a call to go through and it is almost impossible to maintain a connection for any length of time. The reception over the line keeps breaking up and most of the call consists of shouting back and forth.
* * *

Despite the huge number of pilgrims, the crowds remain healthy. One Health Ministry official said that except for some cases of ordinary influenza, his ministry has come across no contagious illnesses among the pilgrims. He also said that undue importance should not be given to the expected drop in temperatures in the night, as the weather itself does not bring disease. In any case, the ministry is well prepared to handle any health emergency.

What's Kyriakos Kyrelos doing in Mina?

Greek Haji ‘Reliving’ Ibrahim’s Experience
Siraj Wahab,
Arab News

MINA, 9 January 2006 — He has sharp features and wavy hair. You can say he has Greek features but that is because Kyriakos Kyrelos is indeed Greek. He was a little tired when Arab News met him in Mina yesterday.
“I was born in 1976,” he replied when asked for his age. “I am 30, right,” he asked shifting in his chair.
In Mina, there are pilgrims from over 160 countries. But maybe he is the only one from Greece. “Maybe,” said Kyriakos.

The son of a Greek businessman with interest in the Middle East, Kyriakos is currently doing his MBA from the University of Birmingham, UK.
“I have also done a course in physiotherapy. I come from a business family and we export olive oil to some Gulf countries,” he said. “We are based in Kalamata which is two hours drive to the south of Athens.”

So what brought him into the fold of Islam?
“I had a Yemeni friend in Greece. We were very close. He was the son of the ambassador of Yemen to Greece. I am talking about the late 1980s. At that time there was a war going on between North and South Yemen. My friend was from the south, which eventually lost. My friend had to leave Greece. Ever since we have not been able to get in touch. His name was Ahmad and it was he who brought me closer to Islam,” Kyriakos said.

“I still carry the gift that Ahmad gave me then: a copy of the Holy Qur’an with Greek translation. I was very impressed with it. Initially I would compare the Holy Qur’an and the Bible,” said Kyriakos.
“I was an Orthodox Christian. I find a lot of similarities between the two religions. Even ‘Inshallah’ and ‘Alhamdulillah’ is said in my previous religion as well. For ‘Inshallah,’ the Orthodox Christians say ‘Me tin voithia tou theou’ and for ‘Alhamdulillah,’ they say ‘Doksa to theou’. The one major difference is that we Muslims consider the Prophet Jesus a prophet and they call him the Son of God.

“When I was stepping into Mina I was reminded of the Prophet Ibrahim. He came here first and I was only following in his footsteps. I am re-living Islamic history. It is a great feeling to be here. No doubt about that,” he said.
He said there are very few Muslims in Greece. “There are many Muslims in one particular city called Thraki. But they are mostly of Turkish origin. Because the Greek government has problems with Turkey, the government has not allowed many mosques there. There are some, but they are inadequate,” he said.

Who will be in his prayers on the plains on Arafat today?
“My friends, my family members and everyone else. I will pray for their good health and their well-being,” said Kyriakos as he adjusted the two pieces of seamless clothes of his ihram.
“Being in Mina is such an overwhelming experience. I will tell my friends to come here and see for themselves the beauty and simplicity of Islam. Let them see and experience what it feels like in ihram. Ihram is a great leveler. Rich and poor, old and young everybody has to wear this to complete Haj. The biggest contribution of Islam to the world is equality. And ihram is the symbol of that equality.”

Kyriakos said that in Europe people, especially the youth, have lost their identity.
“They don’t believe in any religion anymore. There is a moral crisis there. Islam can fill the vacuum. It can give a new meaning to the European youth. Let them experience Islam and they will find spiritual solace in it,” Kyriakos added.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

What's going on in Makkah?

Pilgrims Move Into Mina
Syed Faisal Ali & Siraj Wahab,
Arab News

MAKKAH/MINA, 8 January 2006 — Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims chanting “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (at your service O Allah ) moved into the valley of Mina yesterday at the start of Haj.
Many in the sea of white-clad believers were so moved by the occasion that tears streamed down their faces as they set out from Makkah for Mina, retracing the steps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“All our lives we have been waiting for this moment,” said Siti Ayesha, a teary-eyed Indonesian pilgrim. “We can’t believe that it has finally come.”
“To see all these people from around the world responding to the call and speaking in one voice to the Creator gives me unprecedented feelings,” said an Egyptian pilgrim who was among the first to arrive in Mina.
More than two million pilgrims from over 160 countries are performing Haj, seeking repentance, purification and spiritual renewal in a ritual performed by millions of Muslims every year for centuries.
“Security and health conditions of the pilgrims are excellent,” Makkah Governor Prince Abdul Majeed was quoted as saying.
The pilgrims will spend their time in Mina praying and reading the Holy Qur’an. A grueling trek to the plain of Arafat awaits them tomorrow.
Most pilgrims were performing Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Makkah before heading out to Mina. The Holy Haram, which has been packed with pilgrims for the last few days, was slowly getting emptied yesterday.
Pilgrims in ihram — men in two pieces of seamless white cloth and women covered modestly — briskly moved toward the place where their vehicles were parked. Others were bargaining for a deal with taxi drivers for dropping them to the tent city.
Vehicles blaring horns and packed with pilgrims raced with each other to try to reach the tent city first. The cab drivers were speeding in order to get more fares. It was a seller’s market.
The cabbies were charging up to SR100 for a trip that normally costs about SR10.
Traffic police faced tough times in regulating the vehicular traffic and pilgrims walking toward the pedestrian tunnel to Mina. All roads to Mina were packed with buses and other vehicles. The pilgrims were chanting the talabiyah and the entire area was reverberating with “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik”.
An Egyptian pilgrim told Arab News that though he had set off for Mina, he still could not believe that Allah the Almighty gave him a call and this was his opportunity to perform Haj.
“I am religiously charged. I will not stop before I reach Mina. I have come for the first time and I want to see Mina when it’s not that full of pilgrims and I can have a clear idea of everything,” said Abdul Ghani Mutlab.
He said he was worried about the developments in the Middle East and the fate of the Muslim Ummah (nation) and had prayed to Allah to give us “strength and courage to fight the forces of infidels.”
Prayers changed with region and country: One pilgrim from Pakistan said that he prayed for the relief and rehabilitation of the Oct. 8 earthquake victims.
“My brother Irfan, who died in the earthquake wanted to perform Haj. I have come to perform Haj on his behalf and pray to Allah that not only my brother but all those who died in the earthquake should be pardoned their sins and given a place in Jannah (paradise),” Nadeem Ahmad Beem said.
A Bangladeshi crying in prayers was asking for the wellbeing of her children: “Oh Allah, give me health and strength so I can raise my children and make them stand on their feet. I beg you to give similar strength to my husband and make his trade bloom and make my children good Muslims and obedient.”
Ahmed Al-Muqrin from Lebanon spoke into his cell phone asking his wife at home for what he should pray on her behalf.
“I prayed for that already, what else do you want?” he said.
An Iraqi pilgrims who lost a leg in war was very emotional. Ahmad Razzak Tikriti said that there should be an immediate end to the suffering of the millions of Iraqis. I prayed for peace in Iraq and for the emergence of a strong and stable Iraqi nation after this war,” he said.
Abdi Berri Youssef, who lost his legs in the Somali civil war and whose son pushed him through the crowd in a wheelchair, raised his hands and called out: “Oh, God of the whole world, I am defenseless, give me strength and endurance, nothing else.”
Daouwd Zeinalabidine, a Nigerian lawyer: “Oh Allah, my Creator and my Benefactor praise is for You. You are the one who deserves to be obeyed till the end. I ask Your forgiveness and seek purity of my soul.”
He said he had also prayed for “peace for myself, for my country and for the whole world.”

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Who won at the Islamic Games football event?

Sport and the scarf
By Jenny Steel BBC Radio 4
It looked for a moment as though we had come all the way to Tehran for nothing.

A tiny lady in a long black cloak resolutely blocked our path as we tried to get into the arena for the first match of the Islamic Women's Games indoor football event: Britain versus Iraq.
Chattering into a James Bond mike clipped onto her headscarf, she demanded to know if we had cameras. No - we opened our bags, emptied our pockets.

On seeing that we had no intention of breaking the strict no-photography rule, a welcoming smile transformed the face of the unlikely security guard, and she ushered us through.
No men are allowed inside the sports arenas at this event, which means that Muslim women can take off their Islamic covering - the hijab - and compete in shorts and t-shirt.
The ban on women appearing in public without their hijab is so strict in Iran that photos are not allowed in case a man sees them.

Inside, it was easy to forget that we were in an Islamic Republic. Women rushed about busily in smart suits or training kit - headscarves and overcoats cast aside.
The British and Iraqi teams were already warming up on the pitch.
In the press corner we were joined by only one other journalist - an extremely elegant Iranian lady with oval-shaped glasses, reporting for a women's magazine.
Without evincing an unseemly enthusiasm for the subject, she asked me for the low-down on the British team.
Iran flattened everyone in their path at this event and were left unsatisfied
I told her what I knew - that the British, unlike the competition's other teams, were not the national team.
They practised only once a week in a sports centre in Watford with a sign stuck over the door stating "Women Only".
But there was no question they were hungry for victory. A medal, they felt, would vindicate their efforts to provide opportunities in sport for Muslim women in Britain.
The journalist nodded vaguely before disappearing behind a book entitled Secrets of Life Every Woman Should Know.

Play kicked off after a prayer. It was clear from the first minute - when Iraq scored - that Britain were outclassed.
The impressive individual skills which I knew our girls possessed seemed to evaporate under pressure.
As the goal deficit mounted, the British captain succumbed to an ankle injury, tempers frayed and the centre forward was sent off.

The British women's team were beaten heavily by Iraq. In search of light relief, we migrated to the balcony, where we noticed the Iranian team had arrived in preparation for their match.
We struck up a conversation with one of the players - let's call her Shirin - who lost no time in informing us that she dreamed of playing for Liverpool.
The microphone was immediately snatched by her team-mate who screamed "Arsenal!", followed by another shouting "Chelsea!", and another "Manchester United!"
The Iranian squad were a real national team. Supported by the government, they trained intensively to the point of obsession.
Their coach is Brazilian - their skills, fitness and team play absolutely breathtaking. Other teams in the tournament struggled to give them a match at all.
"Why are the British team so weak?" asked Shirin, kindly but uncomprehending. "Arsenal, Manchester United - don't they have women's teams?"
One thing is for sure: It's difficult to imagine the cream of non-Muslim sport competing here
I tried to explain that the girls representing Britain were there because they were Muslim - that this tournament was special to them, as it was the only one where conditions allowed them to remove their hijab in order to play.

read the complete story here

Friday, January 06, 2006

Want to read this year's Hajj diary?

As millions of people stream into Saudi Arabia for next week's Hajj, the BBC's Rabiya Parekh has joined the pilgrims and is writing a diary for the BBC News website.

You can also hear her talking about her Hajj experiences on World Have Your Say on the BBC World Service from 1800 GMT, Monday to Friday.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What happens to us after death?

The Journey
By Huma Ahmad

Imagine yourself at the moment of your death.
What thoughts cross your mind? Memories of family and friends?Panic? Regrets?Remembrance of Allah? What is death? What happens to us after we die?
What is life in the Hereafter like, this new andstrange world after death? Do we lose consciousness of this life?Where does our soul go? Do we feel and think the same?The ineffable feeling of crossing the boundary between this world andthe next cannot be described in words, nor imagined in the mind, butcan be understood only through divine revealation and inspiration. Let us for the next few moments seek an understanding of this, death,the only certainty in life.

Sometimes we may not want to know about the processes that occur after we die because we are afraid or don't want to think about it.However, this is not the attitude of a Muslim.
We should be foremost in learning and understanding death, so we can live our lives accordingly. The Prophet (saw) said, "Live in this world as thoughyou are a stranger or a traveler (passing through it)." [Muslim] We are on a journey and should know about the whole journey's itinerary, not just one part. Death is inevitable. It is the one thing that we can be certainabout in life. We are born to die. Every soul shall have a taste ofdeath no matter who they are. This is confirmed for us many times inthe Quran: "Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only on the Day ofJudgement shall you be paid your full recompense." (Quran 3:185)" Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil andby good, by way of trial. To Us must you return." (21:35)"Every soul shall have a taste of death: In the end to Us shall yoube brought back." (29:57)

read the complete article here

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What did Malcolm X write in his letter from Makkah?

Malcolm X’s (al-Hajj, Malik al-Shabazz) Letter from Makkah
pictures and text of the original available here

The following is Malcolm X’s (al-Hajj, Malik al-Shabazz) letter to his assistants in Harlem during his pilgrimage to Makkah in April of 1964:

Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient holy land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the holy scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.

I have been blessed to visit the holy city of Makkah; I have made my seven circuits around the Ka'aba, led by a young Mutawwaf (guide) named Muhammad; I drank water from the well of the Zamzam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of mount al-Safa and al-Marwa. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on mount Arafat.

There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.

America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white - but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.

You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.

During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug - while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

We were truly all the same (brothers) - because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.
I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man - and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their “differences” in color.

With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called “Christian” white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster - the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves.

Each hour here in the holy land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities - he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth - the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.

Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a white man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed. Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors - honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King - not a Negro.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.
Sincerely,al-Hajj, Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

* Taken from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-authored by Alex Haley.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Was Nasruddin Hodja for real?

Nasreddin (also commonly spelled Nasrudin, Nasredin, Nasruddin, Nasr Eddin, Nastradhin, Nasreddine, Nastratin, Nusrettin) was a lower Muslim cleric who lived in Central Asia during the Middle Ages. His name is often preceded or followed by the title of a religious scholar, theological teacher, or man of wisdom: "Khwaje", "Hodja", "Hoca", "Hogea", "Hodza", "Chotzas", "Mullah", "Mulla", "Molla", "Maulana".
Nasreddin was a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. He often appears as a whimsical character of a large Persian, Arab, and Turkish folk tradition of vignettes, not entirely different from zen koans.
Where and when he was born, and where and when he died, are not known with certainty, but he is usually assumed to have lived in Anatolia or Persia between the 11th and the 14th century. He is well known among various Eastern people. Possibly due to the fact that his stories are shared among pilgrims to Mecca, his humor is familiar, under different names, to people from China, Central Asia, and Morocco. There is a modern tomb dedicated to him in the city of Akşehir in Turkey. He is also the symbol of Akşehir, which hosts several statues of Nasreddin Hoca and an international festival dedicated to him. The city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan also has a statue of him riding his donkey backwards and grasping its tail (as he is traditionally depicted), and journals bear his name in Baku (Azerbaijan) and Tabriz (Iran).

read the complete article here

Sunday, January 01, 2006

So, what's the score?

Sample questions for wannabe German Muslims (taken from the telegraph news website)

  • If your son told you he was a homosexual and wanted to live with another man, how would you react?
  • Would you allow your child to take part in school swimming lessons ?
  • Is it right that women should obey their husbands, and for husbands to beat their wives if they are disobedient?
  • What are your views on bigamy?
  • If your adult daughter dressed like a German woman, would you prevent her from doing so?

What's the good word for Muslims in Germany?

By Kate Connolly in Berlin
(Filed: 31/12/2005)
Muslims intent on becoming German citizens will have to undergo a rigorous cultural test to gauge their views on subjects ranging from bigamy to homosexuality.
Believed to be the first test of its kind in Europe, the southern state of Baden-Württemberg has created the two-hour oral exam to test the loyalty of Muslims towards Germany.

It is to be taken on top of the standard test for foreigners wishing to become German citizens, which includes language proficiency skills and general knowledge.
It also requires applicants to prove that they can provide for themselves and their families.
Those applying must also have resided in Germany for the previous eight years and have no criminal record.
Germany's 15 other states will monitor the progress of the policy when the tests begin this week before deciding whether they wish to adopt similar legislation.
The 30 questions, which have been set by a special commission, range from sexual equality to school sports and are meant to trigger a more detailed discussion between the applicants and officials.
Until now, all applicants have simply had to tick a Yes or No box to answer whether they felt loyalty to Germany.
But now they will be quizzed on their attitudes to homosexuality and western clothing for young women, and whether husbands should be allowed to beat their wives.
Other questions covering topics such as bigamy and whether parents should allow their children to participate in school sports have been called "trick questions", meant to catch people off guard.
The state interior ministry said the test would be used to filter out Muslims who were unsuited for life in Germany. Those who answered "correctly" but later acted against expected behaviour, such as wife-beating, could have their citizenship removed.
Critics say that the test is biased and discriminatory and that if Muslims are obliged to take it, so should all applicants for citizenship.
Brigitte Lösch, a leading member of the Green party in the Baden-Wurttemberg parliament, called for the oral exam to be dropped, arguing that it inferred from the outset that all Muslims were "violent per se" and unable to abide by German law.
"This list of questions is only to be used for applicants from Islamic countries. It is an unbelievable form of discrimination," she said. "If Germans were asked some of the questions, they would find it difficult to answer them."
The European Assembly of Turkish Academics rejected the questionnaire as "strongly discriminatory and racist" against Germany's three million-strong Muslim population, most of whom are Turkish.
Kerim Arpad, an assembly spokesman, said: "The test is shaped by stereotypes and damages integration."
But Dieter Biller, of the foreign ministry in Stuttgart, the state capital, said the test would help bureaucrats to form opinions as to whether citizenship applicants were suitable or not.
"It covers everything from sexual equality, violence, school sports and religious freedom," he said. "How the applicants stand on the question of the attacks of September 11 will also be a key question."
Holland announced yesterday that it was introducing ceremonies for new immigrants as part of efforts to reduce racial tensions and to integrate immigrant communities.
The government is worried that immigrants who do not move outside their ethnic or religious groups hamper integration and stoke fears of militancy. New Dutch citizens will also have to take an "oath of allegiance".