Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Is shaking hands with the opposite sex "a part of daily education"?

Netherlands Defends Muslim Student Handshake Refusal

AMSTERDAM, March 28, 2006

( & News Agencies)

The Dutch Commission for Equal Treatment censured on Monday, March 27, an education center for discriminating against a Muslim student for refusing to shake hands with male colleagues.
"Every school has the duty to be free of discrimination and treat men and women equally. This duty extends to individual students who refuse physical contact on religious grounds," the government-funded commission said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

The adult education center in the Dutch central town of Amersfoort turned down the woman's application to study to become an education assistant, saying handshaking was part of daily education.
The commission concluded that handshaking at schools was not necessary as there were other ways of greeting men.

Fatima Amghar refused to shake hands with men because she said Islam forbids physical contact with men above the age of 12.
A similar incident hit the headlines recently when an imam refused to shake hands with Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk at a public event.
It is prohibited in Islam for males or females to shake hands if there is fear of provoking sexual desire or if there is fear of temptation.
There is an exception in shaking hands with the elderly or children concerning whom there is no fear of desire.

The Muslim minority in the Netherlands, estimated at some one million or 6 percent of the population, has been the subject of racist attacks since the 2004 murder of director Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-Moroccan after he made a film accusing Islam of condoning violence against women.
Europe’s main rights and democracy watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), expressed concern in May of last year at the increasing Dutch intolerance towards Muslims and the "climate of fear" under which the minority was living.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Where do the Dongxiang come from?

From an article in the NY Times:
"Deep in China, a Pious and Poor Muslim enclave"

On a recent Friday, two days after a heavy snowstorm had coated the mountains and left a sheet of ice on the narrow village roads, old men in white caps trudged through the snow to different mosques. Though some are too poor to send their children to school, they have pooled money to build village mosques as well as graceful towers with elegant curved roofs that serve as Muslim burial vaults.

"The Dongxiang people have always believed in Islam," said Ma Ali, 36, the imam at an old mosque in the village of Hanzilin. Indeed, even within a larger region known as the center of Islam in China, the people of Dongxiang have a reputation for being particularly steadfast in their faith.
"People were devout in the past," said Ma Kui, 75, as he leaned on a wooden cane and waited for afternoon prayers with other farmers dressed in lambskin coats. "They are still devout now."

But as everywhere in China, modernity is seeping up the winding roads to the county's larger settlements and beckoning many younger people. In the county seat, Suonanba, cellphones, blue jeans and Internet cafes arrived several years ago. So did Chinese building contractors, cigarettes, alcohol and food not prepared to Islamic code.
"The Islamic atmosphere has become watered down over time, and the older people are aware of that," said Ma Chunling, who is 22. "So they want to protect their culture, and particularly Islam."

...For years, many Chinese scholars assumed that the Dongxiang descended from the Mongol soldiers in Genghis Khan's army who eventually settled in Gansu during the 13th century when the Mongols ruled China under the Yuan Dynasty. But their exact origins were never fully known, an uncertainty that fed an inferiority complex.
"A man once asked me, 'Where do the Dongxiang come from?' " said Ma Zhiyong, a historian who grew up in the county but moved to the provincial capital, Lanzhou, as a teenager. "I was 18 or 19, and couldn't answer the question. I was ashamed."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What's the BBC's take on "Europe's angry young Muslims?"

Find out here

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

If you were to read only *one* article on Islam, which one should that be?

Ten Things Everyone Needs to Know about Islam

By John Esposito
From What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam© 2002 John L. EspositoUsed by permission of Oxford University Press

How much do Australians know about Islam?

Last Update: Monday, March 20, 2006. 11:30am (AEDT)
Poll shows ignorance of Islam
A poll of 1,300 Australians has found high levels of ignorance about Islam.

ABC News Online

One third of Australians admitted to knowing nothing about the world's second largest religion, while about a quarter also believed it to be either a fundamentalist or intolerant faith.
More than half of the poll respondents also said they felt threatened by Islam.

One of the researchers behind the study, New South Wales University's Kevin Dunn, said people tended to feel less threatened by Islam when they had direct contact with its followers.
"That varies according to the extent of knowledge someone has and also, fundamentally, the extent of daily contact someone has with Muslims," he said.
"If you know a few Muslims, you're much less likely to perceive a threat from them."
The Islamic Council's Nade Roude said that with 7 per cent of Australia's population identifying as Muslim, it shows a lot of work needed to be done.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What's the Islamic perspective on Jerusalem?

The Islamic Perspective of Jerusalem
By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi
President, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
(This was a talk presented at the first meeting of American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ) in Washington, DC on April 17, 1999.)

The city of Jerusalem is very sacred to Muslims. It is one of the three most sacred cities in Islam. Jerusalem is called al-Quds al-Sharif (the Noble Sacred Place). In order to understand the sacredness of this city in Islam, one has to understand the faith structure of Islam.

There are three basic principles of faith in Islam:
1. Belief in the oneness of Allah (Tawhid).

2. Belief in the divine guidance through His chosen Prophets and Messengers (Risalah).
3. Belief in the life after death, divine judgment and heaven and hell (Akhirah).
It is the second principle of faith in Islam in Islam that is directly related to our love and devotion to Jerusalem.

Place of Jerusalem in the Islamic Faith
Islam recognizes all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah. The Quran has mentioned many Prophets by name. Their stories and teachings are told at varying length throughout the Quran. Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Zechariah, John the Baptist (Yahya) and Jesus - peace be upon them all - are among the honored Prophets and Messengers of Allah according to Islam.

Jews and Christians also recognize Prophets David and Solomon as great kings and patriarchs of ancient Israel.
However, in Islam they are honored as Allah's great Prophets. The Quran not only narrated their stories, but also restored their honor by removing some of the charges and allegations that were made against their characters by earlier communities.

Prophet David (peace be upon him) was accused in the Bible o f committing adultery (2 Samuel 11 - 12) and Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) was accused of idolatry. (1 Kings 11). The Quran absolved them from all these charges. (28:21 - 25; 38:30). This shows that David and Solomon (peace be upon them) are more revered and respected in Islam than in Jewish and Christian traditions.
Since the city of Jerusalem is historically associated with these Prophets of Allah, it naturally becomes a city sacred to Muslims.
Islam considers itself a continuation of the same spiritual and ethical movement that began with the earlier Prophets.

Historically and theologically it believes itself to be the true inheritor of the earlier traditions of the Prophets and Messengers of Allah. It is for this reason that the Quran called for Palestine - the land associated with the lives of many of God's Prophets - al-ard al-Muqaddasah (the Sacred Land; 5:21) and called its surroundings barakna hawlaha (God's Blessed Precincts; 17:1).
The sacredness of the city of Jerusalem, according to Islam, is in its historical religious reality. This is the city that witnessed the life and works of the greatest Prophets and Messengers of Allah. Here the Divine Grace touched the earth repeatedly. Allah's great Prophets and Messengers lived and moved in its valleys and its streets. Makkah and Madinah are blessed cities in Islam because of their association with the Prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Mohammed. In a similar way Jerusalem is blessed and important in Islam because of its association with other Prophets of Allah, namely David, Solomon and Jesus.

Jews and Christians do not recognize Ishmael and Mohammad as God's Prophets and Messengers, so they do not consider Makkah and Madinah as sacred cities.
However, Muslims believe in Prophets Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus, and so they must recognize the sacredness and importance of Jerusalem in Islam.

Why is Jerusalem important to Muslims?

For Muslims, Jerusalem is the third most holy site in Islam. The name of Jerusalem derived from its original Jebusite name Ur-Salem or Urishalim. For Muslims the name suggests "peace" and corresponds closely to the Muslim concept of the sacred; a place where peace reigns and conflicts is excluded.

Going back to Jerusalem's history we find that it marked more by conflict than by peace. Hadrian destroyed the city, replacing it by a Roman creation from which Jews were banned.Then the Sassanids came and laid it waste. Under the Islamic era, Jerusalem enjoyed 13 years of peace until the Seljuk Turks came between 1070 and 1090 AC, in addition to the Crusader Kingdom between 1099 and 1187AC. All that led to a sort of chaos and it brought a constant conflict between the conquerors in the city.

So the question that comes is how did Jerusalem become important in Islam, and to Muslims? Jerusalem was in the middle of Trade routes. Most of the merchants used to pass from there heading towards Asia Minor and the west. Not to forget Arabs from Mecca too. Islam holds a great estimation as the location of many vents associated with the life of Jesus. From that day, Jerusalem has had a very important spiritual meaning for Muslims, not only being the first Qibla but also the mystical experience of the prophet's ascendance to heaven. Jerusalem tried to be focused by Muslim Pilgrimage, but the significance of Jerusalem thereafter declined in favor of Mecca and Medina.

When Saladdin recaptured the city from the Crusaders, Jerusalem regained once again its glory, where Christians were guaranteed rights of worship, Muslim places of worship which had been desecrated were restored, even a small Jewish community returned to the city, and Jewish culture has seldom flourished as they did under Muslim rule, that's how the spiritual significance of Jerusalem has been absorbed by all three religions.
Muslims on the other hand have an obligation to honor other religions. There is recognition, a respect for both Judaism and Christianity as people of the book, mentioned in the holy Quran.

read the rest of the article here

Monday, March 20, 2006

Do Palestinians have enough bread and water?

Occupied Territories, March 19, 2006
( & News Agencies)

The Palestinians are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, as the UN warns, not just because of food shortage caused by Israeli closures but also because their agriculture-dependent territories are being sliced from the main water resources by the Israeli separation wall.
"With the wall, the Israelis clearly sought to commandeer water resources," Hind Khury, a former Palestinian cabinet minister responsible for Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) and now the government's representative in Paris, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Sunday, March 19. "Without water, there is no life. Israeli policy has always been to push Palestinians into the desert," he added.

Israel is monopolizing around 75 percent of Palestinian water resources in the occupied West Bank, a region where rainfall is infrequent and water a strategic asset.
The 700km-long separation wall has cut more than 220 Palestinian communities in the West Bank -- around 320,000 people – from main water resources.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are now forced to buy water from trucks -- an expense many can ill afford -- to supplement local supplies that often fall woefully short of requirements. Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan rely on the River Jordan which Tel Aviv controls and has cut supplies during times of scarcity. The International Court of Justice has asked Israel to tear down the barrier, which resulted in the confiscation of 11,4000 dunums (2,850 acres - 1,140 hectares) of privately-owned Palestinian land, and compensate affected Palestinians.

The Israeli separation wall – seen by the Palestinians as a land grab designed to delimit the borders of their future state – is believed to be deliberately built to siphon off their aquifers.
"The route of the wall matches that of water resources, the latter being conveniently located on the Israeli side," said Elisabeth Sime, director of aid organization CARE International in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Abdul Rahman Tamimi, director of the non-governmental Palestinian Hydrology Group, agreed.
"The wall cuts some communities off from their only source of water, prevents tanker trucks from getting around and puts up prices," he said.
He added that in the West Bank city of Qalqilya around 20 wells, making up 30 percent of the town's resources, were lost because of the wall.
While agriculture accounts for nearly a third of Palestinian gross domestic product, only five percent of Palestinian land is irrigated.
About 70 percent of Israeli and Jewish settlement land, on the other hand, is watered, even if agriculture amounts to barely two percent of Israel's GDP.
A recent report by the UN Special Coordinator (UNSCO) blamed Israel's wall and its network of checkpoints and roadblocks across the occupied West Bank for a "de-development" of the Palestinian economy.
"Every day is taking us closer to a humanitarian crisis," warned Ging. (Reuters)
Israel is also being blamed for contaminating water resources by dumping toxic waste on Palestinian lands.
"I often get stomach ache. I throw up. It's the same for all the children here," said nine-year-old Fatima from the small town of Attil while looking feverishly at her mother Awa.
At least a third of the local drinking water is contaminated by sewage and pesticides, according to AFP.
Doctor Hossam Madi said diarrhea, gastroenteritis, fever, kidney failure, infection and dermatological problems blight most Palestinian children and persist into adulthood because of poor water supplies.
CARE's Sime agreed.
"The quality of water is getting worse and worse.
"A high proportion of new-born babies die of water-born infections. In the long run, Israelis will be affected by the pollution of water in the Palestinian territories."
In villages such as Jalbun, household, agricultural and industrial waste from Israeli settlements speed up the process of water pollution.
In another development, the United Nations warned Sunday that the Gaza Strip was dangerously facing a looming humanitarian crisis over continued Israeli closures.
"Every day is taking us closer to a humanitarian crisis," said John Ging, the Gaza director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
He said that the Israeli closure of Gaza's Karni commercial crossing caused his agency to run out of food supplies to distribute to the most impoverished families.
"Flour and wheat are not the only products in short supply. There is a shortage of sugar, oil and many of the other basic commodities.
"If the borders remain closed then everything will begin to become a crisis in itself."
Hundreds of Palestinians lined up outside bakeries in Gaza on Friday, March 17, to buy bread as shop owners complained they were running out of flour because of Israel's closure of the commercial crossing into the impoverished strip.
Israel has closed Karni for much of the year, citing security concerns. It was last closed on March 13 and Israel says it has no immediate plans to reopen it.
Ging said it was essential to reach an agreement as soon as possible.
"I am calling on everybody who can assist to solve the situation where the borders are closed and the result is that people here in Gaza do not have enough bread, the very basics that are needed to sustain our lives."
The US called a meeting on Sunday to hammer out a solution.
"We've taken the initiative to call a meeting between the parties to facilitate the passing of humanitarian goods into Gaza," said Stewart Tuttle, a spokesman for the US embassy in Tel Aviv.
A recent USAID report said Israel's closure of the Karni crossing has caused steep financial losses and risks an agricultural catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Why are villagers in Rwanda taught about the "struggle to heal"?

Islam Attracting Many Survivors of Rwanda Genocide
Jihad Is Taught as 'Struggle to Heal'
By Emily Wax

Washington Foreign Post Service
RUHENGERI, Rwanda -- The villagers with their forest green head wraps and forest green Korans arrived at the mosque on a rainy Sunday afternoon for a lecture for new converts. There was one main topic: jihad.
They found their seats and flipped to the right page. Hands flew in the air. People read passages aloud. And the word jihad -- holy struggle -- echoed again and again through the dark, leaky room.

It wasn't the kind of jihad that has been in the news since Sept. 11, 2001. There were no references to Osama bin Laden, the World Trade Center or suicide bombers. Instead there was only talk of April 6, 1994, the first day of the state-sponsored genocide in which ethnic Hutu extremists killed 800,000 minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

"We have our own jihad, and that is our war against ignorance between Hutu and Tutsi. It is our struggle to heal," said Saleh Habimana, the head mufti of Rwanda. "Our jihad is to start respecting each other and living as Rwandans and as Muslims."
Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people here in Africa's most Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began.

Many converts say they chose Islam because of the role that some Catholic and Protestant leaders played in the genocide. Human rights groups have documented several incidents in which Christian clerics allowed Tutsis to seek refuge in churches, then surrendered them to Hutu death squads, as well as instances of Hutu priests and ministers encouraging their congregations to kill Tutsis. Today some churches serve as memorials to the many people slaughtered among their pews.

Four clergymen are facing genocide charges at the U.N.-created International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and last year in Belgium, the former colonial power, two Rwandan nuns were convicted of murder for their roles in the massacre of 7,000 Tutsis who sought protection at a Benedictine convent.

In contrast, many Muslim leaders and families are being honored for protecting and hiding those who were fleeing.
Some say Muslims did this because of the religion's strong dictates against murder, though Christian doctrine proscribes it as well. Others say Muslims, always considered an ostracized minority, were not swept up in the Hutus' campaign of bloodshed and were unafraid of supporting a cause they felt was honorable.

"I know people in America think Muslims are terrorists, but for Rwandans they were our freedom fighters during the genocide," said Jean Pierre Sagahutu, 37, a Tutsi who converted to Islam from Catholicism after his father and nine other members of his family were slaughtered. "I wanted to hide in a church, but that was the worst place to go. Instead, a Muslim family took me. They saved my life."

Sagahutu said his father had worked at a hospital where he was friendly with a Muslim family. They took Sagahutu in, even though they were Hutus. "I watched them pray five times a day. I ate with them and I saw how they lived," he said. "When they pray, Hutu and Tutsi are in the same mosque. There is no difference. I needed to see that."

Islam has long been a religion of the downtrodden. In the Middle East and South Asia, the religion has had a strong focus on outreach to the poor and tackling social ills by banning alcohol and encouraging sexual modesty. In the United States, Malcolm X used a form of Islam to encourage economic and racial empowerment among blacks.

Muslim leaders say they have a natural constituency in Rwanda, where AIDS and poverty have replaced genocide as the most daunting problems. "Islam fits into the fabric of our society. It helps those who are in poverty. It preaches against behaviors that create AIDS. It offers education in the Koran and Arabic when there is not a lot of education being offered," said Habimana, the chief mufti. "I think people can relate to Islam. They are converting as a sign of appreciation to the Muslim community who sheltered them during the genocide."

While Western governments worry that the growth of Islam carries with it the danger of militancy, there are few signs of militant Islam in Rwanda. Nevertheless, some government officials quietly express concern that some of the mosques receive funding from Saudi Arabia, whose dominant Wahhabi sect has been embraced by militant groups in other parts of the world. They also worry that high poverty rates and a traumatized population make Rwanda the perfect breeding ground for Islamic extremism.
But Nish Imiyimana, an imam here in Ruhengeri, about 45 miles northwest of Kigali, the capital, contends: "We have enough of our own problems. We don't want a bomb dropped on us by America. We want American NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] to come and build us hospitals instead."

mams across the country held meetings after Sept. 11, 2001, to clarify what it means to be a Muslim. "I told everyone, 'Islam means peace,' " said Imiyimana, recalling that the mosque was packed that day. "Considering our track record, it wasn't hard to convince them."
That fact worries the Catholic church. Priests here said they have asked for advice from church leaders in Rome about how to react to the number of converts to Islam.

"The Catholic church has a problem after genocide," said the Rev. Jean Bosco Ntagugire, who works at Kigali churches. "The trust has been broken. We can't say, 'Christians come back.' We have to hope that happens when faith builds again."
To help make that happen, the Catholic church has started to offer youth sports programs and camping trips, Ntagugire said. But Muslims are also reaching out, even forming women's groups that provide classes on child care and being a mother.

At a recent class here, hundreds of women dressed in red, orange and purple head coverings gathered in a dark clay building. They talked about their personal struggle, or jihad, to raise their children well. And afterward, during a lunch of beans and chicken legs, they ate heartily and shared stories about how Muslims saved them during the genocide.
"If it weren't for the Muslims, my whole family would be dead," said Aisha Uwimbabazi, 27, a convert and mother of two children. "I was very, very thankful for Muslim people during the genocide. I thought about it and I really felt it was right to change."

Monday, March 13, 2006

What's the Taliban's former foreign envoy doing at Yale?

Special programs welcome grown-up students to Yale
From Afghani envoy to Buddhist ascetic, adult Yalies keep a low profile.
BY THERESE LIM in The Yale Herald

At Yale, it is commonly understood that the student next to you could be a high school valedictorian, a chess champion, or a musical prodigy; few Elis, however, would suspect their classmate to be a former Taliban official.

Yet one of this year’s freshmen, 27-year-old Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi ’09, served for years as an Afghani diplomat for the Taliban government. Today he studies Political Science in WLH next to kids fresh out of Exeter.

Sayed Hashemi ’09, was foreign envoy for the Taliban before enrolling at Yale this year.
Hashemi is but one of many older, non-traditional Yalies enrolled in Yale’s Nondegree Students Program, one of two Yale academic programs designed to accommodate students who cannot study full-timedue to other commitments. The other program, the Eli Whitney Students Program, operates under a similar structure but allows participants to graduate with a Yale degree.

According to the Yale admissions office, the bar for admission is set high so that potential part-time Yalies must be as qualified as their full-schedule counterparts. “All candidates must present evidence of high academic potential, maturity, and clear motivation for their proposed course of study.” Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, GRD ’86, agreed: “The [special students programs]are very selective.” Yet despite the programs’ pursuit of excellence, few Yale students evenrealize this small, select group of part-time peers is here. And so students such as Hashemi, with a lifetime of experience, continue to study under the radar.

Many such students have come to the University after spending much of their lives out of school. Rich Horne, BK ’08, age 33, served as a marine in Kosovo. Bricklin Dwyer, ES ’07, age 25, managed 26 employees at a computer company by the time he was 16. Brooks Prouty, CC ’06, age 34, cloistered himself for five years in a Zen Buddhist monastery. And one of the programs’ few high-profile representatives, 39-year-old Mike Richter, CC ’06, a goalie for the New York Rangers for 15 years, won an Olympic silver medal.

These students, for diverse reasons, either chose not to go to college right after high school or dropped out soon after enrolling.Every year, to develop and maintain a diverse student body with a wide range of stories to tell, the University accepts 30 to 40 to the twoprograms.“These are students who, while they have other aspects of their lives, are fully committed to Yale and to fulfilling its requirements,” William Whobrey, assistant dean of Yale College, in charge of both special-student programs, said. “They want to be part of the Yale community and they feel they have something to offer to that community.”

Yale is hardly alone: Other universities also offer special programs, such as Harvard’s Extension School, for students who did not go straight to college after high school. However, Yale officials stress the difference between Yale’s program and those of its peers. “It’s not another school with different professors, [nor do we] adjust the schedule to meet [individual] schedules,” Whobrey said. “You need to buy into Yale.”

Mike Richter, CC ’06, came to Yale after goal tending for the New York Rangers.And although these students admit that it can sometimes be difficult to balance the time commitments of attending school with living normal lives, they say the quality of the education they receive at Yale warrants the energy. “I wanted to go to the best school possible,” Richter, an Ethics, Politics and Economics major who also volunteers as an assistant coach for the men’s hockey team, said. “Brown and UPenn had returning adult programs, but Yale was clearly the best place to go academically.”
But students enroll-ed in the special-student programs face distinct challenges.

Since Yaledoes not extend financial aid to these students, financing a Yale education is a common difficulty among the students in both the Eli Whitney Program and the Nondegree Program. Classes for these students cost $2,300 apiece. At one point, Ben Harrell, TD ’06, an Eli Whitney student, found himself commuting to New Haven twice every week from a regular job and life in Hartford. “I’d pile all my classes on Mondays and Wednesdays,” he said. “I never had the time to go to any sections, to go see professors, and I was limited as to what courses I could take.”

According to Whobrey, the decision not to offer financial aid was made with the program’s inception in 1977. He said, however, that the cost of the program has never seemed prohibitive to the Yale administration. “This year’s $2,300 per class is significantly less than regular tuition, around the 60 to 65 percent range,” Whobrey said.

Non-traditional students also face struggles integrating socially into a campus that educates students nearly a decade younger. Since many special-program students have families and regular jobs and are not allowed to live on campus, they face challenges of assimilation. To ease this problem, Eli Whitney students—but not Nondegree ones—are assigned to residential colleges. Despite living on their own, they are welcome to use the college’s facilities, purchase a meal plan, and play IMs. But most surveyed students said they’d prefer to spend time with their family, if they have one, or on their studies. Some, however, have joined extracurricular organizations, such as the Yale Economic Review.

This willingness to shun the spotlight in favor of personal pursuits perhaps reflects in the degree of privacy that Hashemi, enrolled in the Nondegree Program, has maintained for himself. Though Hashemi declined to be interviewed, due to an upcoming profile in the New York Times Magazine, his friend, Saad Rizvi, PC ’08, described him as a strong and devoted student, one who consistently takes upper-level seminars despite his first-year standing. “Considering all the experience he’s had, he’s done well at [the courses],” Rizvi said.

Hashemi, who has studied international development and political science at Yale, toured the U.S. in May 2001, when he met with U.S. State Department officials and gave talks at several universities, including Yale. “He’s a very intense person, very passionate about what needs to be done to improve [Afghanistan],” Rizvi said.
Hashemi, now 27 years old, fled Afghanistan when he was a child and did not return until 1995, when he joined the Taliban. Working as an envoy under Afghanistan’s foreign ministry, he represented the country in various conferences and speaking engagements abroad, where he often had to defend his government’s policies in the face of criticism.

When asked about Hashemi’s political opinions, Rizvi answered, “He has views, but his views are about how to improve things, like education. We talk about how to deal with the future and the problems in that part of the world,” he said, referring to South Asia and the Middle East.
Like fellow non-traditional students Horne and Richter, Hashemi has fought adversities that reach beyond roommate spats and laundry blues; it is, perhaps, this same fighting spirit that Yale seeks in students who will bring new perspectives to the table. “The experience [Hashemi] comes with allows him to speak on things with authority,” Rizvi said. “He knows what he’s talking about.”

Saturday, March 11, 2006

What do carpets and 3-course meals have in common?

Paul Lewis of The Guardian highlights a new exhibition that reveals the inventions made by the Muslim world
Friday March 10, 2006
It is the thread that links cars, carpets and cameras and is also responsible for three-course meals, bookshops and modern medicine.
The Islamic civilisation, according to the curators of a national exhibition that opened this week, has made an enormous but largely neglected contribution to the way we live in the west.

The project, 1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage of Our World, supported by the Home Office and the Department for Trade and Industry, uncovers the Islamic civilisation's overlooked contribution to science, technology and art during the dark ages in European history.

It lifts the veil on hundreds of innovations - from kiosks and chess through to windmills and cryptography - that are often popularly associated with the western world but originate from Muslim scholarship and science.

Based on more than 3,000 peer-reviewed academic studies, the exhibition charts Islamic innovations during ten decades of "missing history" spanning from the 6th to the 16th century and covering an area stretching from China to southern Spain.
Tailored to appeal to school children and their teachers, and accompanied by a book and online resource, the project was launched at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry and will tour the country.

Professor Salim al-Hassani, who has led a five-year project to collate and validate the research behind the exhibition, said: "If you ask the average person where their spectacles or camera or fountain pen come from, few people would say Muslims.

"A lot of these scientific and cultural developments are accepted as fact in the academy, but the vast majority of people - because of the nature of the education system - are completely unaware of their origins."
In his own field, mechanical engineering, Professor al-Hassani has used original 13th century manuscripts to produce virtual reconstructions of sophisticated water pumps and cranks.
"The technology behind these mechanisms was incredibly sophisticated for its time and eventually gave birth to pioneering machinery which still features in every single car," he said.

A central theme is the exchange of knowledge and culture between civilisations and their lasting significance today.
For example, the 9th century musician and fashion designer known as Ziryab, who travelled from Iraq to Andalusia in Spain, is said to have introduced the concept of the three-course meal.

Meanwhile, it was Caliph al-Ma'mum's interest in astronomy that led to the development of large observatories, sophisticated astronomical instruments and a rigorous analysis of the stars.
The organisers, the Manchester-based
Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation, hope to use the compilation to bring about an audit of the national curriculum to ensure it recognises Islamic achievements and the full extent of knowledge transfer between civilisations through the ages.

"For a lot of children in schools, the history of science seems untouchable and remote," said Yasmin Khan, the exhibitions project manager. "We need to change the way we explain civilisation's progress in our schools."
Last year, the government's preventing extremism working group on education proposed that the entire education system should be instilled with "a more faithful reflection of Islam and its civilisation".

Professor Mark Halstead, a lecturer in moral education at Plymouth University, said there was scope in the existing curriculum to teach the contributions of Islamic civilisation, but teachers required better training.
"Islam needs to take its place alongside other historic groups, such as the ancient Romans and Greeks," he said.
"When Europe was living in the dark ages, Islamic civilisation was blossoming, and the advances during this period are more relevant to the modern world than those of the Ancient Egyptians and Aztecs."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Is the burqa ban a "victory for Dutch decency"?

Image Hosted by Free Photo Post
Dutch MPs to decide on burqa ban
By Mark Mardell Europe editor, BBC News, Brussels

The Dutch Parliament has already voted in favour of a proposed ban.The Dutch government will announce over the next few weeks whether it will make it a crime to wear traditional Islamic dress which covers the face apart from the eyes.
The Dutch parliament has already voted in favour of a proposal to ban the burqa outside the home, and some in the government have thrown their weight behind it.
There are only about 50 women in all of the Netherlands who do cover up entirely - but soon they could be breaking the law.
Dutch MP Geert Wilders is the man who first suggested the idea of a ban.
"It's a medieval symbol, a symbol against women," he says.
"We don't want women to be ashamed to show who they are. Even if you have decided yourself to do that, you should not do it in Holland, because we want you to be integrated, assimilated into Dutch society. If people cannot see who you are, or see one inch of your body or your face, I believe this is not the way to integrate into our society."
I interviewed Mr Wilders inside parliament after several security checks. Two tough bodyguards stood close by throughout. This country, once the epitome of easy-going liberalism, is edgier, less tolerant these days.

Mr Wilders has explicitly linked his wish for a burqa ban with terrorism.
"We have problems with a growing minority of Muslims who tend to have sympathy with the Islamo-fascistic concept of radical Islam," says Mr Wilders.
"That's also a reason why everybody should be identifiable when they walk on the street or go to a pub or go into a restaurant or whatsoever."
By Alexandra Hudson March 7, 2006
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - If the Netherlands becomes the first European country to ban the burqa and other Muslim face veils this month, Hope says she'll resort to wearing a surgical mask to dress in accordance with her religious beliefs.
"I'll wear one of those things they wore during the SARS epidemic if I have to," said the Dutch-born Muslim, one of about 50 women in the Netherlands who wear the head-to-toe burqa or the niqab, a face veil that conceals everything but the eyes.
"I'm very practical," the 22-year-old added.
Last December, parliament voted to forbid women from wearing the burqa or any Muslim face coverings in public, justifying the move in part as a security measure.
The cabinet is awaiting the results of a study into the legality of such a ban under European human rights laws, before making its final decision. The results are expected in the second half of this month.
"This is an enormous victory for traditional Dutch decency," said Geert Wilders, the populist member of parliament who first proposed the burqa ban, after hearing parliament had backed it.
"The burqa is hostile to women, and medieval. For a woman to walk around on the streets completely covered is an insult to everyone who believes in equal rights."
The Dutch may have been among the first to legalize cannabis, prostitution and euthanasia -- earning them a reputation for tolerance -- but they are now in the process of imposing some of Europe's toughest entry and integration laws.
Social and religious tensions have escalated in recent years, exacerbated by the murder of columnist and director Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-Moroccan militant in 2004 after he made a film accusing Islam of condoning violence against women.
His murder, and that of anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn two years earlier, deeply unsettled the country and provoked an anti-Muslim backlash, as well as much soul-searching about the make-up and cohesion of Dutch society.
Famile Arslan, a Dutch-Muslim lawyer, believes a ban would only reinforce today's polarized climate, and prompt more women to wear the niqab as a form of protest.
"We are very scared that what starts with a ban on the burqa will end with a ban on the hijab," she said, referring to the Muslim headscarf worn by thousands in the Netherlands.
"A country once known for its tolerance is now becoming known for its ignorance," she added, stressing public opinion of the Netherlands' 1 million Muslims had hit an all-time low.
About a third of the country's Muslims have Moroccan ancestry, while Dutch-Turks form another sizable community.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Where do Muslims in Athens pray?

Muslims in Athens wait for city'sfirst mosque
Athens: In a small, cold and decrepit apartment in central Athens, scores of Muslims trip over each other to find a space to pray as rain drips onto their heads from the leaky roof.
The stairwell is in darkness and there is grime in every corner. But for these faithful, there is no other choice.
About 130 makeshift mosques like this, windowless, airless basements or rooms in warehouses, are all these Muslims have until the Greek capital's first mosque is erected.

"On Friday, many people come here for prayer, it's a very old and congested place. We are afraid a slab is going to fall on us, and it's raining [inside]," said Monjur Moshed, an immigrant from Bangladesh.
A mosque has long been planned for the estimated 150,000 Muslims living in Athens but has been held up over objections from the powerful Orthodox Church, and the public.

Government plans for a mosque and an adjoining Islamic cultural centre date back to 1979, with funding pledged by Saudi Arabia. Officials say the government remains committed to building the mosque, but admit it is a sensitive issue.
The plan seemed close to materialising when the capital hosted the 2004 Olympic Games, authorities promised a mosque would be built for Muslim athletes, although they never materialised.

Although the steady immigration of Muslims to Athens continues, mostly economic migrants from the Middle East and Asia, the city remains the only capital in western Europe without an Islamic place of worship.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Want some chicken soup for the soul?

read heartwarming stories ..why people the world over are choosing to become Muslim