Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What are the 10 things every Muslim should do?

Ten Things Every Muslim should do
By: Yahiya Emerick

I've often been confronted with people who are really motivated to do something for Islam, but who were aimless. You know what I'm talking about. Sometimes we are so filled with feelings of wanting to help but we don't really know where to begin.

Doesn't it seem like there's just too much that needs to be done? Muslims are starving in war zones all over the world, kings and dictators rape our lands, misinformation about Islam is rampant, our children are succumbing to the non-Muslim way of life, maybe half our family members don't practice Islam, even if they say they're Muslim, the Masjid needs funds, Muslims need to be taught the difference between what's Islam and what's cultural, etc...
I'm sure many of you could add endlessly to this list. Have you ever felt like the problems are just too great to solve? Have you ever blocked it out of your mind because if you really thought about it you would become depressed? If so, then you're not alone.

I've met tons of believers, real sincere people, who lament that they don't know what to do or how they can really help.
Of course, there are some people who will make one specific issue their focus and they'll work to help in that direction. For example, someone might make the support of the local Masjid their cause. Another person may support whole-heartedly an Islamic school or the activities of a relief agency, etc...
But most of us don't have time to do justice to those types of goals like we should.

But the alternative, sitting at home and watching TV is hardly worth our time when there are real Muslims out there who need us, and a cause that we must support. So in view of all the variables that affect most of our lives in the modern world, I've come up with a list of ten easy things that every Muslim family should do so that they can contribute to the betterment of Muslims and the establishment of Islam in the West.

Anyone can do these ten things and I've selected activities that are not overly time-consuming, nor expensive. I expect that you'll agree and will tape a print out of these ten "to do's" to your refrigerator door. (Before grabbing that snack you can be reminded about what is more important than filling your belly!)

#1 Sponsor an Orphan
Before anything else, there are hungry Muslim children everywhere who have needs right now. There are several reputable relief agencies who offer orphan sponsorship programs that only cost from $20-$40 a month. You and I know that's nothing expensive on your part - so do it. Some agencies even offer automated withdrawal so you can send a letter once with a voided check and never have to fill anything out again. Doing this can make you close to the Prophet in Paradise.

#2 Subscribe to at least three Muslim magazines
This is practically the only way you can keep abreast of issues important to the Muslims in the West. It also supports the budding Muslim media. Even if you don't intend to read the magazines, subscribe anyway. Someone around you will read or you can leave them with others. Make it at least three and try to subscribe for 2-3 years at a time.

#3 Go to the Masjid at least once a week for Salah
In the West today, nearly all of us have a Masjid within driving distance. Even if you don't go to the local Masjid for Jumu'ah because of your job, then go for at least one Maghrib a week or for Zuhr on Sunday. Whatever, just go at least once a week- WITH YOUR FAMILY. It's the only way that you and your family will consider the Masjid to be your place.

#4 Give your children an Islamic Education
If your children go to public school, and there is no Islamic school nearby, then make sure they either get into some Sunday school program, or, if the local Masjid doesn't run it right, then pool together with some like-minded families and run your own program at somebody's house every Saturday or Sunday and conduct it the way you think it should be done. This is the minimum requirement for not losing your children to secular Christianity.

#5 Buy books, cassettes and videos on Islam
Buy at least one book, audio or video produced by a Muslim company or author per month. Have you ever wished that there were better items for you and your family's pleasure? Unfortunately, Muslims don't support their own writers and artists very well. No one can make even a decent living if they want to write or produce for the Muslim market. That must change if you want to see wonderful products for you and your children. Just buy one thing per month. Either out of a catalog or from your local Muslim bookstore. For you it's only $5-$10 bucks, but collectively, it can encourage our creative and talented brothers and sisters to do more.

#6 "Adopt" a convert
If you see any new Muslims at your Masjid, then partially "adopt" them into your family. The convert experience is basically one of isolation and loneliness. You'd be surprised to know that most converts are outright ignored by the people in the Masjid. Beyond a few pleasantries and handshakes, they are usually never made to feel welcome or accepted. They are often cut off from their non-Muslim friends and relatives so they are doubly vulnerable. A new convert should be invited into various peoples home for dinner a minimum of six times a month. Get together with others and make sure you all put the new convert on your guest list for any sort of gathering.

#7 Give the gift of the Quran
Keep three extra Qur'an translations and some literature in your home at all times. You never know when you'll find someone interested who wants to know more. Besides, your children read only and understand only English. (You wouldn't believe how many Muslim families don't have an English Qur'an translation in their homes! How will the child read it if they don't understand Arabic, and they never understand Arabic, even if their parents are Arabic speaking!)

#8 Go to one convention a year
Even if you have given up on them, you have to go. It's the only way your children will feel a part of a greater community of believers. Think about it and realize that you don't just go to a convention for your personal enrichment. It's about Muslim solidarity. Go to at least one every year. Couple it with your vacation plans or something. Just go.

#9 Eat only Halal or Kosher Food
Besides all the religious aspects I could mention, which are the most important, by the way, there is another advantage. You solidify your identity and introduce to your family the concept that animals should not die cruelly (like they do in all American slaughterhouses) and that Muslims eat cleaner food. If there are no Halal meat stores nearby, you'll probably find a Kosher store. At least many of the Jews are not shy about Allah's commandment there and have established kosher markets everywhere.

#10 Create an Islamic environment in your home
Lastly, make sure you and your family have cultural-type items in your home in abundance that are associated with Islam or Islamic culture. Everyone in your home should have prayer beads, prayer rugs, kufis, Hijabs, (even if they're worn only for prayer), gowns, posters, wall plaques, stickers, logo-shirts, Islamic screen-savers on the computer, and on and on. You want to establish an identity in your home. Everything outside is totally un-Islamic. At least let the Islamic flavor be present inside.

Originally, there were only ten things on this list, but then a very important item came to mind but I just couldn't bring myself to delete any of the preceding items. But in the interest of simplicity, I'll keep the upper ten intact and mention this item as a separate issue because it's something that you don't really need to list with the other things.
This is extremely crucial:Resolve to raise your family as Muslims

Don't be passive. Don't sit around and watch your spouse and children drift further and further away into disbelief and kufr. Would any of you like to be on their deathbed and then realize that they only left non-Muslims behind them? Imagine entering the great sleep with that realization on your heart!

These ten things can be done, with minimal trouble and fuss, by each and every Muslim family. Through these ten points nearly every purpose of Islam is served and you can finally feel that you're doing something in an organized fashion to help promote your healthy way of life and also to fulfill your responsibility to your Creator. Give it a try and see how easy these things really are. Then stick with it. You have no excuses for inaction anymore

Monday, April 24, 2006

What does a French, Muslim teenager write about in her best-selling first book?

Voice of the suburbs Faïza Guène, a Muslim teenager from a Paris housing estate, tells Jason Burke how a life struggling with two cultures translated into a surprise bestselling novel

Sunday April 23, 2006
The Observer
The Porte de la Villette, where I am to meet Faïza Guène, is not a picture-postcard part of Paris. It is a no-man's-land, a zone between the wealthy, beautifully preserved city itself and the poor, concrete suburbs. The 'porte', once a gateway through the ramparts of Paris, is now a junction on the busy beltway road of the Périphérique. There is a metro station, a forlorn, rain-lashed shopping centre, a railway bridge and a row of wet restaurants and bars.

And there is Café Docks, where Guène or, rather, her literary agent, has told me that we will meet. The cafe turns out to be another no-man's-land, though cultural rather than physical. It's an American-themed bar with screens showing MTV with French subtitles, assorted Broadway memorabilia and a menu featuring hamburgers, nachos, pizza and entrecôte-frites. Café Docks is empty save for a few teenagers sharing after-school coffees and a packet of cigarettes.

Guène is late, delayed by a signing at France's annual book fair, but it doesn't matter because I am finishing her book, Just Like Tomorrow, and hugely enjoying it. One of the things I like most is the genuine language of conversations of tens of millions of people that you rarely see written down. It is, both in French and the excellent English translation, a wordfest; clever and funny, too.
Just Like Tomorrow has been a huge hit in France, selling more than 70,000 copies.

Critics dubbed Guène 'the Sagan of the suburbs'. Few French books that come out of the vast, poor areas that ring the main cities are as accessible and as amusing as Guène's. Nor, crucially, do they combine both grit and a positive final message. The Journal Du Dimanche talked of 'the birth of a true talent'; another reviewer raved about 'the true voice of a lost generation'. It has been translated into 26 languages and is a rare example of a popular French language work that has broken out of the Francophone ghetto, lauded by critics in the Arab world and in the New York Times alike.

The book is written with the tone and wry glance of a 15-year-old living on an estate in a fictional Parisian suburb. It is the sort of place that went up in flames last November, when widespread rioting rocked France. The narrator, Doria, lives with her mother in a small flat. Her father - 'the old man' - recently returned to his native Morocco to marry a younger woman who is pregnant and might bear him a son.

Early on, the reader is plunged into the cultural chasms that yawn in modern France and, indeed, in modern Europe and that pose one of the biggest challenges to Western societies. On the second page, Doria mocks her conservative father and the culture of his native land. 'Daddy wanted a son. For his pride, his name, the honour of the family and, I suppose, for lots of other stupid reasons.'
The problem was, Doria explains, that he only had one child, her, a girl and, unlike at the local supermarket, 'there's no after-sales exchange service on babies'. So Dad goes to Morocco where, when the son arrives, Doria sneers, the whole village will turn out, a band of oldies with drums will play and they will cut the throat of a sheep to give a name to the baby. The name will be Mohammed, she comments mordantly. 'Bet you 10 to one.'

Yet, after mocking the culture of her father's homeland, Doria talks of how she has got herself signed off school meals because it is Ramadan, during which the devout fast. 'I always like to show the duality,' says Guène. 'Through the characters, through the language. There is the opposition of childhood and adulthood, of France and the land of someone's origin; there is the change you see in Doria over the course of the novel.'

Guène is at pains to stress that the book is not autobiographical - at least not directly. 'Doria is like me in her way of seeing the world, in the close relationship she has with her mother. The book is composed of episodes from my daily life, but it is not a description of my life. The characters are composites of people I know, people I have heard about, people I once sat opposite to on a bus.'

Guène's parents came from Algeria and her family - father a manual worker, mother who has never worked - is very close. The fact that many readers, especially in France, jumped to the conclusion that the broken family of the novel is her own irritates her - 'I have written a novel, but I always end up being asked about social issues and so on.' It is part of the stereotyping that much of the book is devoted to combating.

Though not intellectuals, Guène's parents were 'deeply respectful' of books, she tells me. 'I learned to read when I was very young,' Guène says. But in Les Courtillières, the large, public-housing projects where Guène grew up and still lives, there were almost no cultural facilities at all. 'Books are expensive things. My book in its first edition cost ¤18. If I hadn't written it, I would not have bought it.'

Guène started writing early, though not with any ambition to be published. 'I wrote purely for myself,' she says. At 13, she became involved in a publicly financed neighbourhood cultural centre, which offered theatre, film and writing workshops. By 14, she had finished her first short film, La zonzoniere (zonzon is slang for prison), about an adolescent girl whose zealously traditional father and brother keep her locked up in the family apartment (a storyline that reappears in Just Like Tomorrow

The director of the cultural centre noticed some of Guène's work, published in a school newspaper, and encouraged her to write something. The first 30 pages were written in two or three weeks. Guène, who was 17 at the time, was stunned when an editor from a major publishing house rang her to offer her a contract.

'I never thought all this would happen,' she says. 'All this' means regular appearances on French radio and television, frequent lectures and talks in colleges and schools and the freedom to return to her first love: screenplays. She has just finished directing a short film and is thinking about writing another book.
All her work is about the banlieues and countering the media stereotypes about them that she feels are so current. Journalists, with their 'disgusting, mythic, representations' of life in the poor suburbs, are a frequent target.

Guène's weapons in this war against misrepresentation are finely selected. Just Like Tomorrow's mix of humour, optimism, emotion, social observation and vicious political commentary lies behind its success. But reality is leavened with wonderful moments of black comedy. When not invited to a neighbour's wedding on the estate, Doria comments that she and her mother had no real desire to be part of 'the jetset' anyway.

The gulf between the France of the tourist brochures and reality informs so much of what Guène is writing about. Her book is an investigation of what it means to be French. 'People say that people like me should be more integrated,' says Guène. 'But what does that mean? I was born in France, I went to a French school, I speak French, I live in France. It is difficult to do the things that are apparently needed to be accepted if that means denying things that are a part of my culture. It is as if - and this is a bit brutal but is true - we [children of immigrants] are told, "You are children of the republic, but you are bastard children. You are very welcome here but with the following conditions." '

I ask what the France of 400-odd cheeses, the wine, great museums and art galleries means in Les Courtillières. 'The great symbols of France, the cultural richness etc ... all that is inaccessible,' she says. 'It has got nothing to do with me or our lives.'
The French title of the book, Kiffe Kiffe Demain, is an almost untranslatable mixture of appropriated Arabic and 'pure' French. Such linguistic and cultural juxtapositions litter the book's text, as they litter the language of most young people in Paris.

'Take the French language itself,' Guène says. 'Apparently, you must not touch it. It is reserved for the élite. It would be better if people interested themselves in what happens in the banlieues for reasons other than our social conditions. There is a richness and a creativity there as well as an enormous need to express oneself.'

Again, we return to the issue of immigration and assimilation. France, Guène says, is living an illusion. 'The republic has fantastic ideals but they don't work in the reality, in the concrete.' One issue that Guène says has never been resolved is historical. France has never come to terms with its colonial history. 'My father knew the war,' she says, referring to the bitter and horribly violent war of independence the Algerians waged against the French from 1954 to 1962. 'We had relatives tortured and imprisoned. But we are French. So we are split between two camps with a profoundly complicated past.'

But despite the biting attacks of the French political and social systems, the book is not negative. Doria and Guène are certainly caught between two worlds but are a bridge between them, too. The final chapters are optimistic. In the end, Guène makes clear, it is the French Republic, its message of liberté, egalité, fraternité and the magnificent heritage of French culture that, despite all the miscomprehension and resentment, offers Doria hope, a way forward and a home.

Walking out into the cultural desert of Porte de la Villette, leaving Guène, a French woman with Algerian parents, sipping Italian-style coffee in an American-themed bar, I hope she's right.
· Just Like Tomorrow is published by Chatto & Windus on 4 May.

Extract from Just Like Tomorrow
Seeing as mum's still on holiday, we decided to wander round Paris together. It was the first time she'd seen the Eiffel Tower even though she's been living half an hour from it for 20 years. Before now, it was just something on the TV on New Year's Eve, when it's all lit up and underneath it people are partying, dancing, kissing and getting wasted. Whatever, she was this impressed. 'It must be two or three times our block, isn't it?' Straight up, I told her. Except the estates round here generally don't get so much tourist interest. It's not like you find camera-toting Japanese mafia standing at the bottom of tower blocks in this neighbourhood. Personally, I think it's ugly, but you can't deny it's there. We didn't have enough money to buy a miniature Eiffel Tower either. They're even uglier than the original, but still, it's classy to have one on your telly.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Would you wear a pair of Al-Quds jeans?

Al-Quds Jeans" Divide Austrian Muslims

By Ahmed Al-Matboli,

IOL Correspondent
VIENNA, April 22, 2006 ( – A new Italian line of jeans designed for Muslims and named after the holy city of Al-Quds has drawn mixed reactions among young Austrian Muslims.
"It is a victory for Islam, to my way of thinking, when clothing makers race to lure Muslims into buying their designs," Egyptian-born student Haitham Abdul-Mohsen told Saturday, April 22.
Mohamad Labib, a tradesman, believes that the new design will appeal to a broad section of Muslim youths in Europe.
"I think it will be much sought-after among fashion-conscious practicing Muslim youths," he noted.

The Udine-based Italian company said Al-Quds Jeans are designed to be extra roomy so as to avoid the Muslim wearer stiffness while kneeling during prayers.
The pockets are also designed to accommodate the usual array of accessories Muslims have to remove whilst they worship.
Abdel Hamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, said in remarks published by Italian media outlets that the design could open up a big market in countries with large Muslim populations.

"About 90 percent of Muslims, aside from a niche that wants Armani and other top designer-jeans, generally seek jeans that are both (wear) resistant and comfortable and not expensive," he said.
The company says the jeans are sold at a promotional price of $22.53, hoping to make an impact first among the 1.1 million-strong Muslim minority in Italy.

If successful, the company will plan to reach out to the estimated 18 million Muslims living in Europe.
Luca Corradi, designer of the new jeans, said the design is made by a plant near Karachi, Pakistan, that employs about 15,000 people.
Some 9,500 pairs of the new jeans have been produced and sold to French retailer Carrefour SA.

"Cheap Propaganda"
Other Austrian Muslims are not enthusiastic to name clothes after Muslim sacred places like Al-Quds, seeing it as "cheap propaganda" from such profit-seeking companies.
"I'm pretty sure that the company at issue knows well how dear Al-Quds is held by the Muslims," Syrian researcher Samer Ziyad said.
"We have never heard about any products named after the Vatican, Knesset of the 'wailing wall.'"
And he has got a clear message for the Italian company: "Stop exploiting our sanctities and Al-Quds," which is home to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine.
Other Muslim youths said the jeans entrench the stereotype that Muslims were isolationists, who tend to create ghettos or parallel societies inside their respective European countries.
Tunisian-born student Ahmad Salama said Muslims are in no need to specially-designed jeans.
"We can buy baggy jeans flooding the stores," added his colleague Ahmed Basiouni.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Have you heard of the auto wudhu washer machine?

Now, a device for pre-prayer wash
By Dina Aboul Hosn,

Staff Reporter, Gulf News

Dubai: An automated Wudu (ablution) system that promises Muslims a time-efficient performance before each prayer has won qualified approval from scholars in the UAE.
The Auto Wudu Washer, developed by a Malaysian and endorsed by the Islamic Council of Qatar and Islamic Council of New South Wales, claims to be the world's first automatic pre-prayer washing and drying system.

"It has inbuilt washing units for ear, face, hands and foot, which allows a person to perform all functions without water spillage," said Anthony Gomez, chairman of AACE Worldwide and developer of the system, which will be displayed in Dubai this month.

Shaikh Ahmad Zu Al Nourain, member of the Iftaa Committee, said the device can be used provided it completely washes the body parts. Shaikh Mohammad Al Hakami, a religious scholar, said any technology that helps Muslims perform their religious duties properly is welcome.

People's opinions varied. Samer Khalil, a 27-year-old Syrian broker in Dubai, said he would use it if it saves time and water. But Palestinian Maha Amer, 34, said Wudu is a ritual she likes to perform peacefully and gracefully, which is why she will not use machines for the purpose.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What are the 6 Questions that Andee Goldman asked Al-Jazeerah's editor?

Six Questions About Islam, Muslims and Jews
By Hassan El-Najjar and Andee Goldman

Andee Goldman:
I have read a lot of books on Islam and have a few questions.

1. Is it correct when a person dies, he does not go to heaven or hell until the Day of Judgment? Where does the soul stay?

2. How is the Nation of Islam part of Islam?

3. Does Islam includes parts of the Old and New Testaments?

4. Do Muslims believe that Adam was black and Eve was tan? where did white come from?

5. Islam was started in the Middle East. Is it the major religion of Arabs?

6. Islam is supposed to respect the Jewish and Christians Books.
Why are Jews hated?
Thank you very much,

Hassan El-Najjar:
1. According to Islamic teachings, accountability will be in the Day of Judgment, not before. All souls go to heavens waiting for the Day of Reckoning. Then, believers go to Paradise and non-believers go to Hell.

2. I'm not much knowledgeable about followers of the Nation of Islam in the US. However, if they profess that there is no god except Allah and Muhammed is His messenger. And if they believe in the Holy Qur'an and the Sunna (teachings) of the Prophet, as the two major sources of Islam, then they are Muslims.

3. Islam means peace. It also means surrendering one's will to God. This means the belief that only God can benefit you or can cause you harm. Islam is the religion that God taught to humans on this planet through the senior angel, Jibril (Gabriel). It was revealed to humanity in different stages when people needed guidance. Thus, the message of Islam was taught through Adam, Noah, Ibrahim (Abraham), Abraham's descendants (Ismael, Isaac, and Jacob), Moses, Jesus Christ, and Muhammed, to name the most prominent of the messengers.
Thus, the Old Testament (the Torah) and the New Testament (the Engel) are Books of Islam, too. All messengers of God are considered Muslims, and we don't differentiate among them.
However, the Holy Qur'an, the word of God in Arabic, does not include chapters or sections of the two Books. Rather, it includes the same teachings. It completes them and gives a judgment about points of disagreement between Jews and Christians. An example of that is regarding Jesus Christ. While Jews did not believe in him, Christians believe in him as the Messiah and also the son of God.
The Holy Qur'an has supported Christians in that he was the Messiah but did not support them in their belief that he was the son of God. God, Allah, was not born of anybody, has never given birth to anyone, and there is nothing like Him.

4. There is nothing in the Holy Qur'an about the colors of Adam and Eve. So, this is not an Islamic teaching.
But if you want a scientific explanation about human skin color, it's found in anthropology. Simply, this is a pigmentation the human skin develops in relation to the sun heat and the sun ultra violate rays, which cause cancer. People living on the equator (where the sun is closest to the Earth's surface) have the darkest skin color. As they move to the north and to the south, away from the equator, the need for darker skin becomes less and less, until the skin becomes fairest near the arctic circle.

5. Yes, Islam started in the Middle East, where it was preached by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammed. The vast majority of Arabs, more than 95 percent, are Muslims. However, the vast majority of Muslims are not Arabs. They constitute more than 1.3 billion people living in all continents but concentrate in Asia and Africa, where God gave them most of the Earth's oil, which is the main target of current wars.

6. Muslims not only respect the Old Testament and the New Testament, they also believe in them. And a person cannot be a Muslim if he or she does not believe in them as the Books of God.
Muslims and non-Muslims do not hate Jews. Actually, followers of the three religions lived together for thousands of years in peace, respect, and mutual recognitions. The exception was the time of the Crusades, which represented European invasions and conquests more than religious wars.

Muslims and Jews lived together for the entire Islamic history, about 14 centuries, in tolerance, peaceful existence, and fruitful cooperation. This was the case in the early Islamic states of Umayyads and Abbasids, as well as during the eight centuries of Arab-Islamic rule of Andalusia, or Arab Spain. Jews lived as citizens of the Islamic states throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with full respect and in peaceful existence.
The change has happened when European Jews invented Zionism as a colonial and imperialist movement to dispossess the Palestinian people. Then, these Zionists started to influence Jews everywhere to immigrate to Israel to participate in the Zionist project.
Had the Israelis treated Palestinians as citizens, there would be no conflict. Instead, they evicted them from their villages and cities in 1948 and left them for 55 years in refugee camps. Moreover, they occupied the rest of Palestine in 1967 and continued the annexation of more Palestinian land.

The conflict is not religious. It is not about verses in the Holy Qur'an or verses in the Old Testament. Rather, it is about the land of Palestine and the Israeli aggression against Arabs and Muslims.
Nobody hates Genevieve Cora Fraser, Uri Avenery, Latif Douri, Yossi Sarid, Yossi Beilin, or Noam Chomski. These are all Jews. But they are brave and peace-loving Jews. They are against the Israeli aggression, which is targeting the Palestinian people. They are also against the Zionist support of the Israeli aggression. Israel, Palestine, and the whole world need more of these to counterbalance the influence of the Sharonites and their neocon supporters.

In interactive editorials, the editor of Al-Jazeerah answers questions and or responds to comments of readers, which are more general than readers' responses to specific articles or issues. It is an effective method of interaction in electronic journalism, particularly because it addresses readers' concerns.

Dr. Hassan A. El-Najjar is a sociologist and cultural anthropologist. He is the editor of Al-Jazeerah. He has written The Gulf War: Overreaction and Excessiveness 2001. Amazon Press.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What's showing at the Muslim film festival in New York?

Muslim film festival shouting to be heard
New York: More than 30 movies from the Arab and Muslim world will be playing at a week-long New York film festival.
The Alwan Film Festival, created by a nonprofit group in lower Manhattan, features several well-known Middle Eastern directors. The films tackle timely subjects like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With American troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the West's relations with the Muslim world perhaps the defining challenge of the decade, those involved in the festival want to help Americans learn what the Muslim world is all about.
"It's very important that Americans of all backgrounds come and see the films, especially on the event of the fifth year after 9/11," said Bader Ben Hirsi, a British-Yemeni director whose film opened the festival on Friday.

"It's important to see what the Middle East really is. I watch TV here and it's completely different from the Middle East I know."
But the films are playing at just three lower Manhattan cinemas and the small festival has barely registered on the media radar of the city, coming as it does just before the much bigger Tribeca Film Festival whose programme also boasts a substantial number of films from the Muslim world.
Hirsi said he hoped the festival would draw a diverse audience. "It would be nice, but I don't think it will be. I think the people that will turn out will probably be Arab Americans or Arabists," he said.

While several of the Alwan Festival films focus on current affairs, Hirsi says his is a "bittersweet romantic comedy," the story of a wealthy young man who is about to marry a woman he has not met but who falls in love with another woman.

A New Day in Old Sanaa is the first feature film made in Yemen, Hirsi said. It was a struggle to make it because of the bureaucracy, funding problems, misunderstanding and suspicion in Yemen, and even an actor getting stabbed, he said.
"I thought the hard part was over but the thing that really I just can't get is, we had incredible reviews... and we've seen people charmed by this film. But sales agents and distributors...just don't know what to do with it. It's not what they expect from the Arab world."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Do Muslims believe in Jesus?

The Islamic and Christian views of Jesus: a comparison


The person of Jesus or Isa in Arabic (peace be upon him) is of great significance in both Islam and Christianity. However, there are differences in terms of beliefs about the nature and life occurrences of this noble Messenger.

Source of information about Jesus in Islam
Most of the Islamic information about Jesus is actually found in the Quran.
The Quran was revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and memorized and written down in his lifetime. Today, anyone who calls him or herself a Muslim believes in the complete authenticity of the Quran as the original revealed guidance from God.

Source of information about Jesus in Christianity
Christians take their information about Jesus from the Bible, which includes the Old and New Testaments.
These contain four biblical narratives covering the life and death of Jesus. They have been written, according to tradition, respectively by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are placed at the beginning of the New Testament and comprise close to half of it.
Encyclopedia Britannica notes that none of the sources of his life and work can be traced to Jesus himself; he did not leave a single known written word. Also, there are no contemporary accounts written of his life and death. What can be established about the historical Jesus depends almost without exception on Christian traditions, especially on the material used in the composition of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, which reflect the outlook of the later church and its faith in Jesus.

Below are the views of Islam and Christianity based on primary source texts and core beliefs.

1. Do Muslims believe he was a Messenger of One God? YES
Belief in all of the Prophets and Messengers of God is a fundamental article of faith in Islam. Thus, believing in Prophets Adam, Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them) is a requirement for anyone who calls him or herself a Muslim. A person claiming to be a Muslim who, for instance, denies the Messengership of Jesus, is not considered a Muslim.
The Quran says in reference to the status of Jesus as a Messenger:
"The Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger before whom many Messengers have passed away; and his mother adhered wholly to truthfulness, and they both ate food (as other mortals do). See how We make Our signs clear to them; and see where they are turning away!" (Quran 5:75).

2. Do Muslims believe he was born of a Virgin Mother? YES
Like Christians, Muslims believe Mary, Maria in Spanish, or Maryam as she is called in Arabic, was a chaste, virgin woman, who miraculously gave birth to Jesus.
"Relate in the Book the story of Mary, when she withdrew from her family, to a place in the East. She screened herself from them; then We sent to her Our spirit (angel Gabriel) and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: I seek refuge from you in God Most Gracious (come not near) if you do fear God. He said: Nay, I am only a Messenger from your Lord, to announce to you the gift of a pure son. She said: How shall I have a son, when no man has ever touched me, and I am not unchaste? He said: So it will be, your Lord says: ‘That is easy for Me; and We wish to appoint him as a sign unto men and a Mercy from Us': It was a matter so decreed" (Quran 19:16-21).

3. Do Muslims believe Jesus had a miraculous birth? YES
The Quran says:
"She (Mary) said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me.' He (God) said: ‘So (it will be) for God creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: ‘Be!'- and it is" (3:47).
It should also be noted about his birth that:
"Verily, the likeness of Jesus in God's Sight is the likeness of Adam. He (God) created him from dust, then (He) said to him: ‘Be!'-and he was" (Quran 3:59).

4. Do Muslims believe Jesus spoke in the cradle? YES
"Then she (Mary) pointed to him. They said: ‘How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?' He (Jesus) said: ‘Verily! I am a slave of God, He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet; " (19:29-30).

5. Do Muslims believe he performed miracles? YES
Muslims, like Christians believe Jesus performed miracles. But these were performed by the will and permission of God, Who has power and control over all things.
"Then will God say: ‘O Jesus the son of Mary! recount My favor to you and to your mother. Behold! I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit (the angel Gabriel) so that you did speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught you the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel. And behold: you make out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and you breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by My leave, and you heal those born blind, and the lepers by My leave. And behold! you bring forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the children of Israel from (violence to you) when you did show them the Clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident magic' (5:110).

6. Do Muslims believe in the Trinity? NO
Muslims believe in the Absolute Oneness of God, Who is a Supreme Being free of human limitations, needs and wants. He has no partners in His Divinity. He is the Creator of everything and is completely separate from His creation.
God says in the Quran regarding the Trinity:
"People of the Book (Jews and Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, and attribute to God nothing except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His command that He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and in His Messengers, and do not say: ‘God is a Trinity.' Give up this assertion; it would be better for you. God is indeed just One God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. God is sufficient for a guardian" (Quran 4:171).

7. Do Muslims believe that Jesus was the son of God? NO
"Say: "God is Unique! God, the Source [of everything]. He has not fathered anyone nor was He fathered, and there is nothing comparable to Him!" (Quran 112:1-4).
The Quran also states:
"Such was Jesus, the son of Mary; it is a statement of truth, about which they vainly dispute. It is not befitting to the majesty of God, that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be' and it is" (Quran 19:34-35).

8. Do Muslims believe Jesus was killed on the cross then resurrected? NO
"“They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did.” (Quran 4:156) “God lifted him up to His presence. God is Almighty, All-Wise” (Quran 4:157) .

Additionally, Muslims believe that Jesus, may Allah exalt his mention, will return before the day of Judgment.

read the complete article, here

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Why isn't Playboy welcome in Indonesia?

Indonesians Attack Playboy Offices

JAKARTA, April 12, 2006
( & News Agencies) - Hundreds of angry Indonesians attacked the offices of the newly-published Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine.
About 300 protesters from the Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) rallied outside the building to demand that the local version of the magazine, which carries no nude photos, cease publication, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Clad in white shirts and skull caps the protesters threw rocks at the front lobby, breaking the windows of the building in the south of Jakarta several days after the magazine hit news-stands for the first time.
Shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest), the protesters also ripped apart several copies of the Indonesian Playboy, according to Reuters)
The first edition of Playboy Indonesia hit news stands Friday, April 7, with pictures inside showing less skin than the magazine's 20 editions worldwide.
The first edition further carried an interview with Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia's most prominent intellectual and author, as well as a lengthy article on reconciliation between Indonesia and East Timor, which broke away from Jakarta in 1999.
"We will carry out more attacks if Playboy refuses to stop publishing," Salim Ali Hamid, one of the leaders of the group, told Elshinta radio, according to AFP.
The group earlier Wednesday protested the publication of the magazine at national police headquarters in South Jakarta.
The first edition was quickly snapped out. Copies later changed hands at more than three times the cover price of 39,000 rupiah (4.33 dollars).
It features pictures of underwear-clad women and is no racier than local editions of British men's magazines FHM and Maxim already on sale in Jakarta.
But Chamammah Soeratno, head of the women's wing of major Muslim group Muhammadiyah, told Reuters Friday that "Everyone knows it's a pornographic magazine. The first edition may not have any nudity. That's a very clever move by the publishers."
Most of Indonesia's Muslims, who make up around 85 percent of the population of 220 million, practice a moderate and tolerant form of the religion.
Police Dilemma
FPI protesters vow to carry out more attacks if Playboy refuses to stop publishing. (Reuters)
One of some 90 policemen guarding the building was injured but most of the magazine's employees had left the offices when the attack happened.
There were no immediate reports of arrests but witnesses said some police chased stone-throwers.
A police spokesman in Jakarta told Al-Arabiya Satellite TV Wednesday that the situation was really hard to control.
"We urged the publishers not to go on with their plans (to issue the magazine) but they won't listen. They (publishers) do have a license, but the people are angry and we (police) are facing a problem."
But South Jakarta police chief Wiliardi Wizard told Reuters he would question the leader of the group in relation to the incident and detain the perpetrators.
"If they can hand over the perpetrators then that's good. Otherwise we'll have to hunt them," he said.
FPI activists, known for attacking nightspots during anti-vice raids, believe that Playboy is synonymous with pornography and is not fit for publication in the world's most populous Muslim country.
Islamic leaders said earlier this year when plans for Playboy's debut were announced that the magazine would corrupt a culture already inundated by Western influences.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono weighed into the debate in February to question the magazine's benefit to Indonesia.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why do some Muslims celebrate the Prophet's birth anniversary and others don't?

There's a difference of opinion among Muslim scholars on this issue.

Some scholarly opinions are found here and here.

And Allah knows best.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What did Larry Drummond find in Islam?

Willimantic man with AIDS: 'Now I'm dying to live'
WILLIMANTIC--Larry Drummond rises before daybreak these days to an unfamiliar room in an unfamiliar town and orders his broken body out of bed.
From his hoarse throat, he forces an alhamdulillah, the Muslim prayer uttered upon awakening.

While using the toilet, the 46-year-old glances at his lesioned face, which is scarred from scuffles of years past. He returns bedside to tuck his stiff legs into a kneeling position. They were hardened one bleak day, 26 years ago, when he set himself on fire.
Then he prostrates himself to the East, lowering his swollen belly to the ground -- the AIDS medication, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C engorging his liver.
He prays.
"Me having AIDS and finding Islam is the best things that has ever happened to me," the Hartford native said. "I once had a monster inside me, and a crook and a thief inside me. AIDS taught me to be humble, and to change."
"AIDS came to me first. Then Islam a few years later," said Drummond, who wears a kufi skull cap and prostrates five times a day. He reads from a well-leafed Quran every day -- a habit from his prison days.
"I'd tried everything else, and Islam finally kept me in check."