Friday, June 30, 2006

Who are the Muslims we don't see on TV?

The Muslims we don't see on TV

By Anne McElvaine
Special to The Clarion-Ledger

S ANLIURFA, TURKEY — An incident occurred during our tour of Turkey with a group of 15 Mississippians on a trip sponsored by the Institute for Interfaith Dialog that I feel I must relate to others.
While we were at the village of Harran, where Abraham lived for a time (Genesis 11:31), we were served an Arab coffee called mirra. The batch from which my husband, Bob, and one other member of the group were served must have been contaminated with bacteria.
By the time we returned to Urfa, as this city is more commonly called, Bob was very ill.

Our Turkish hosts arranged for him to be taken to a clinic. Everyone at the clinic was so nice and concerned.

The doctor had been offered teaching jobs at two prestigious medical schools in the States. His brother is in Dallas and is involved with the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue.
The doctor decided that he was needed in Urfa and started a clinic for the people. The doctor and clinic wouldn't accept any money for their services to Bob.

After Serdal (one of the Turkish Muslims accompanying our group) and I got Bob out of the clinic, Bob insisted on going to visit the two main places we had come to Urfa to see: the Cave of Abraham, which is, according to Muslim tradition, the birthplace of Abraham, and the Carp Pool, which is said to be where King Nimrod had Abraham thrown onto a fire and God caused springs to flow up from the ground to extinguish it. The wood from the fire is said to have turned into fish.

By the time we got to the pool, Bob had taken a serious turn for the worse and had to rest.
A street cleaner asked Serdal if he could be of any help and said, "He is a visitor in our country and I will be sad that he is so ill."

Of course, when Serdal translated this for me, I shed some tears. A street cleaner - so concerned. A short time later, we needed his assistance in finding a rest room. He directed us to one in a quiet courtyard surrounding a mosque. There were several prayer rooms around the courtyard.
Serdal went into the mosque to pray. When he came out, the imam (pastor of the mosque) came out, too. Serdal asked the imam if Bob could lie down in one of the prayer rooms. The Imam opened a door without hesitation and went and got a pillow for him. He came back to offer to make an herbal tea for Bob. I told him that Bob really couldn't drink anything.

He brought the tea around so I could read the ingredients in English, perhaps thinking I didn't trust his tea. Then, I noticed that the imam was holding onto the iron grates on the window with his head bowed and praying - then did my tears flow!
The Imam said that he had to be gone for 30 minutes, but would check on us again. This time, he asked my permission to go into the room with Bob. He looked at him and bowed his head again and prayed. Crying, I now realized that he and I were praying to the same God for the same thing. I have never been so moved spiritually.

These are not the Muslims we see on television.
I believe that we were meant to have this experience with the imam and the street cleaner. This was where we were meant to be. And this all took place also a short distance from the Cave of Abraham, the common ancestor of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
After meeting all the wonderful people in Turkey, I want to help others to understand that the terrorists of 9-11 identified themselves as Muslims, but they do not represent Islam any more than many people who call themselves Christians the teachings of Jesus.

The vast majority of Muslims are not remotely terrorists. The parents want what we want for our children and grandchildren: peace and love and understanding.

[via Positive Muslim News (great blog!)]

Friday, June 23, 2006

Are Muslims in Britain really the "most anti-Western" in Europe?

Poll shows Muslims in Britain are the most anti-western in Europe · Attitude resembles public opinion in Islamic nations · British show greatest mismatch of feelings
Julian Borger in Washington
Friday June 23, 2006
The Guardian

Public opinion in Britain is mostly favourable towards Muslims, but the feeling is not requited by British Muslims, who are among the most embittered in the western world, according to a global poll published yesterday.

The poll, by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project, asked Muslims and non-Muslims about each other in 13 countries. In most, it found suspicion and contempt to be mostly mutual, but uncovered a significant mismatch in Britain.

The poll found that 63% of all Britons had a favourable opinion of Muslims, down slightly from 67% in 2004, suggesting last year's London bombings did not trigger a significant rise in prejudice. Attitudes in Britain were more positive than in the US, Germany and Spain (where the popularity of Muslims has plummeted to 29%), and about the same as in France.
Less than a third of British non-Muslims said they viewed Muslims as violent, significantly fewer than non-Muslims in Spain (60%), Germany (52%), the US (45%) and France (41%).

By contrast, the poll found that British Muslims represented a "notable exception" in Europe, with far more negative views of westerners than Islamic minorities elsewhere on the continent. A significant majority viewed western populations as selfish, arrogant, greedy and immoral. Just over half said westerners were violent. While the overwhelming majority of European Muslims said westerners were respectful of women, fewer than half British Muslims agreed. Another startling result found that only 32% of Muslims in Britain had a favourable opinion of Jews, compared with 71% of French Muslims.

Across the board, Muslim attitudes in Britain more resembled public opinion in Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia than elsewhere in Europe. And on the whole, British Muslims were more pessimistic than those in Germany, France and Spain about the feasibility of living in a modern society while remaining devout.
The Pew poll found that British Muslims are far more likely than their European counterparts to harbour conspiracy theories about the September 11 attacks. Only 17% believed that Arabs were involved, compared with 48% in France.

There was general agreement that relations are bad, but Britons as a whole were much less likely than other Europeans to blame Muslims. More Britons faulted westerners (27%) than Muslims (25%), with a third saying both are equally responsible. British Muslims were less ambivalent. Nearly half blamed westerners. By comparison, in Germany and France both communities blamed each other in roughly equal measure.

Unlike the rest of Europe, a majority of Britons declared themselves sympathetic to Muslims offended by the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad published in the European press last year. But most Britons said the outbreak of violence was the result of Muslim intolerance for western freedom of expression. Only 9% of British Muslims agreed with that view. Nearly three-quarters blamed the controversy on western disrespect of Islam.
While finding ample confirmation of the rift between Muslims and non-Muslims around the world, the poll did find some signs of encouragement.
"Confidence in Osama bin Laden has ... fallen in most Muslim countries in recent years," the survey concluded. That was particularly true in Jordan, where 24% expressed confidence in the al-Qaida leader, compared with 60% a year ago.
Support for suicide bombing has also plummeted in Jordan, Pakistan and Indonesia. In Pakistan now, 69% said the terrorist tactic was never justified, compared with 38% four years ago.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Is there anything you want to know about the Ka'bah?

"This web site does not belong to any country or government. It is not funded by any organization or donation. It is made solely from personal funds. Here is why I made this web site.

When I was a little boy all of my classmates were Buddhist. They use to ask me: “Why you are Muslim? You are in Thailand, you would rather be Buddhist.” And “Why do Muslims worship the Black Stone?”. I had no answer for them. My classmates probably confused the Ka’bah with the Black Stone. I known Ka’Bah. I’ve heard of the Black Stone. But I didn’t know if people worshipped them or not. My knowledge about Islam was very limited at that time.

It was almost thirty years ago. But even today, I still have very little knowledge on Islam and the Ka'bah. Fortunately, I found some excellent books and know some learned people whom I can consult. When I turned to the Internet and searched for Ka’bah. I’ve found may sites with comprehensive Ka’bah information. But I couldn’t find a web site which was dedicated to Ka’bah information exclusively.

Therefore, I decided to create this web site. The web site that compiles Ka’bah information from every where. The web site that helps the researcher to find in-depth information of the Holy Ka’bah, all in one place. The web site where readers can share their opinion and information about Ka’bah.

Click here

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What's a day in the life of a Muslim woman preacher like?

Click here to view the picture story on BBC and here for an AlJazeera story

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How did Dr. Jerald F. Dirks, M.Div., Psy.D., overcome an identity crisis to become Muslim?

One’s sense of identity, of who one is, is a powerful affirmation of one’s own position in the cosmos. In my professional practice, I had occasionally been called upon to treat certain addictive disorders, ranging from smoking, to alcoholism, to drug abuse. As a clinician, I knew that the basic physical addiction had to be overcome to create the initial abstinence. That was the easy part of treatment. As Mark Twain once said: “Quitting smoking is easy; I’ve done it hundreds of times”.
However, I also knew that the key to maintaining that abstinence over an extended time period was overcoming the client’s psychological addiction, which was heavily grounded in the client’s basic sense of identity, i.e. the client identified to himself that he was “a smoker”, or that he was “a drinker”, etc. The addictive behavior had become part and parcel of the client’s basic sense of identity, of the client’s basic sense of self.
Changing this sense of identity was crucial to the maintenance of the psychotherapeutic “cure”. This was the difficult part of treatment. Changing one’s basic sense of identity is a most difficult task. One’s psyche tends to cling to the old and familiar, which seem more psychologically comfortable and secure than the new and unfamiliar.
On a professional basis, I had the above knowledge, and used it on a daily basis. However, ironically enough, I was not yet ready to apply it to myself, and to the issue of my own hesitation surrounding my religious identity. For 43 years, my religious identity had been neatly labeled as “Christian”, however many qualifications I might have added to that term over the years. Giving up that label of personal identity was no easy task. It was part and parcel of how I defined my very being. Given the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that my hesitation served the purpose of insuring that I could keep my familiar religious identity of being a Christian, although a Christian who believed like a Muslim believed.
It was now the very end of December, and my wife and I were filling out our application forms for U.S. passports, so that a proposed Middle Eastern journey could become a reality. One of the questions had to do with religious affiliation. I didn’t even think about it, and automatically fell back on the old and familiar, as I penned in “Christian”. It was easy, it was familiar, and it was comfortable.
However, that comfort was momentarily disrupted when my wife asked me how I had answered the question on religious identity on the application form. I immediately replied, “Christian”, and chuckled audibly. Now, one of Freud’s contributions to the understanding of the human psyche was his realization that laughter is often a release of psychological tension. However wrong Freud may have been in many aspects of his theory of psychosexual development, his insights into laughter were quite on target. I had laughed! What was this psychological tension that I had need to release through the medium of laughter?
I then hurriedly went on to offer my wife a brief affirmation that I was a Christian, not a Muslim. In response to which, she politely informed me that she was merely asking whether I had written “Christian”, or “Protestant”, or “Methodist”. On a professional basis, I knew that a person does not defend himself against an accusation that hasn’t been made. (If, in the course of a session of psychotherapy, my client blurted out, “I’m not angry about that”, and I hadn’t even broached the topic of anger, it was clear that my client was feeling the need to defend himself against a charge that his own unconscious was making. In short, he really was angry, but he wasn’t ready to admit it or to deal with it.) If my wife hadn’t made the accusation, i.e. “you are a Muslim”, then the accusation had to have come from my own unconscious, as I was the only other person present. I was aware of this, but still I hesitated. The religious label that had been stuck to my sense of identity for 43 years was not going to come off easily.
About a month had gone by since my wife’s question to me. It was now late in January of 1993. I had set aside all the books on Islam by the Western scholars, as I had read them all thoroughly. The two English translations of the meaning of the Qur’an were back on the bookshelf, and I was busy reading yet a third English translation of the meaning of the Qur’an. Maybe in this translation I would find some sudden justification for…
I was taking my lunch hour from my private practice at a local Arab restaurant that I had started to frequent. I entered as usual, seated myself at a small table, and opened my third English translation of the meaning of the Qur’an to where I had left off in my reading. I figured I might as well get some reading done over my lunch hour. Moments later, I became aware that Mahmoud was at my shoulder, and waiting to take my order. He glanced at what I was reading, but said nothing about it. My order taken, I returned to the solitude of my reading.
A few minutes later, Mahmoud’s wife, Iman, an American Muslim, who wore the Hijab (scarf) and modest dress that I had come to associate with female Muslims, brought me my order. She commented that I was reading the Qur’an, and politely asked if I were a Muslim. The word was out of my mouth before it could be modified by any social etiquette or politeness: “No!” That single word was said forcefully, and with more than a hint of irritability. With that, Iman politely retired from my table.
What was happening to me? I had behaved rudely and somewhat aggressively. What had this woman done to deserve such behavior from me? This wasn’t like me. Given my childhood upbringing, I still used “sir” and “ma’am” when addressing clerks and cashiers who were waiting on me in stores. I could pretend to ignore my own laughter as a release of tension, but I couldn’t begin to ignore this sort of unconscionable behavior from myself. My reading was set aside, and I mentally stewed over this turn of events throughout my meal. The more I stewed, the guiltier I felt about my behavior. I knew that when Iman brought me my check at the end of the meal, I was going to need to make some amends. If for no other reason, simple politeness demanded it. Furthermore, I was really quite disturbed about how resistant I had been to her innocuous question. What was going on in me that I responded with that much force to such a simple and straightforward question? Why did that one, simple question lead to such atypical behavior on my part?
Later, when Iman came with my check, I attempted a round-about apology by saying: “I’m afraid I was a little abrupt in answering your question before. If you were asking me whether I believe that there is only one God, then my answer is yes. If you were asking me whether I believe that Muhammad was one of the prophets of that one God, then my answer is yes.” She very nicely and very supportively said: “That’s okay; it takes some people a little longer than others.”
Perhaps, the readers of this will be kind enough to note the psychological games I was playing with myself without chuckling too hard at my mental gymnastics and behavior. I well knew that in my own way, using my own words, I had just said the Shahadah, the Islamic testimonial of faith, i.e. “I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”. However, having said that, and having recognized what I said, I could still cling to my old and familiar label of religious identity.
After all, I hadn’t said I was a Muslim. I was simply a Christian, albeit an atypical Christian, who was willing to say that there was one God, not a triune godhead, and who was willing to say that Muhammad was one of the prophets inspired by that one God. If a Muslim wanted to accept me as being a Muslim that was his or her business, and his or her label of religious identity. However, it was not mine. I thought I had found my way out of my crisis of religious identity. I was a Christian, who would carefully explain that I agreed with, and was willing to testify to, the Islamic testimonial of faith. Having made my tortured explanation, and having parsed the English language to within an inch of its life, others could hang whatever label on me they wished. It was their label, and not mine.
It was now March of 1993, and my wife and I were enjoying a five-week vacation in the Middle East. It was also the Islamic month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from day break until sunset. Because we were so often staying with or being escorted around by family members of our Muslim friends back in the States, my wife and I had decided that we also would fast, if for no other reason than common courtesy. During this time, I had also started to perform the five daily prayers of Islam with my newfound, Middle Eastern, Muslim friends. After all, there was nothing in those prayers with which I could disagree.
I was a Christian, or so I said. After all, I had been born into a Christian family, had been given a Christian upbringing, had attended church and Sunday school every Sunday as a child, had graduated from a prestigious seminary, and was an ordained minister in a large Protestant denomination. However, I was also a Christian: who didn’t believe in a triune godhead or in the divinity of Jesus, peace be upon him; who knew quite well how the Bible had been corrupted; who had said the Islamic testimony of faith in my own carefully parsed words; who had fasted during Ramadan; who was saying Islamic prayers five times a day; and who was deeply impressed by the behavioral examples I had witnessed in the Muslim community, both in America and in the Middle East. (Time and space do not permit me the luxury of documenting in detail all of the examples of personal morality and ethics I encountered in the Middle East.) If asked if I were a Muslim, I could and did do a five-minute monologue detailing the above, and basically leaving the question unanswered. I was playing intellectual word games, and succeeding at them quite nicely.
It was now late in our Middle Eastern trip. An elderly friend who spoke no English and I were walking down a winding, little road, somewhere in one of the economically disadvantaged areas of greater ‘Amman, Jordan. As we walked, an elderly man approached us from the opposite direction, said, “Salam ‘Alaykum”, i.e., “peace be upon you”, and offered to shake hands. We were the only three people there. I didn’t speak Arabic, and neither my friend nor the stranger spoke English. Looking at me, the stranger asked, “Muslim?”
At that precise moment in time, I was fully and completely trapped. There were no intellectual word games to be played, because I could only communicate in English, and they could only communicate in Arabic. There was no translator present to bail me out of this situation, and to allow me to hide behind my carefully prepared English monologue. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t understand the question, because it was all too obvious that I had. My choices were suddenly, unpredictably, and inexplicably reduced to just two: I could say “N’am”, i.e., “yes”; or I could say “La”, i.e., “no”. The choice was mine, and I had no other. I had to choose, and I had to choose now; it was just that simple. Praise be to Allah, I answered, “N’am”.
With saying that one word, all the intellectual word games were now behind me. With the intellectual word games behind me, the psychological games regarding my religious identity were also behind me. I wasn’t some strange, atypical Christian. I was a Muslim. Praise be to Allah, my wife of 33 years also became a Muslim about that same time.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Why are customers flocking to Islamic tailors in 'militantly secular' Turkey?

Customers flock to Allah's Tailor in Turkey's fashion battleground In a militantly secular country, clothing is at the centre of friction over westernisation

Ian Traynor in Istanbul
June 2, 2006
The Guardian

For the pious yet stylish young Muslim woman this season it's stone or soft brown. Ankle-length skirt or coat closed to the neck, hat and scarf betraying not a wisp of hair, sleeves to the wrist, all in rippling silk, satin or velvet.

At God is Great Clothing, an emporium in central Istanbul scaling the heights of Islamic chic, Mustafa Karaduman cannot shift his creations fast enough. A pioneer in the design and manufacture of attractive clothing made in strict conformity with what he says is laid down in the Qur'an, Mr Karaduman has been dubbed Allah's Tailor or The Prophet's Couturier.

"We're working in the right way in line with Allah's orders," he says at his store emblazoned with the slogan: All Belongings are Allah's.

The conservative, religious middle classes of Istanbul are flocking to Mr Karaduman's outlets. He is planning to expand from 22 to 100 shops, and from Malaysia to Belgium, Egypt to Germany, demand is soaring for the garments designed and made by Mr Karaduman and his six brothers.

But the success of Islamic fashion has many detractors in a liberal city like Istanbul and among an elite reared on militant secularism as the foundation of the Turkish republic.

Womenswear is a battleground in Turkey's fraught westernisation drive, with the issue of the Muslim headscarf convulsing the country. The governing Justice and Development party, a group of religious conservatives with roots in political Islam, would dearly love to overturn the secularist ban on the headscarf in schools, universities and for civil servants and in all public offices.

But more than three years into his rule, prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has failed to do so, alienating his voters and power base. "Allah's orders to Muhammad were tell your daughters and wives to cover their bodies up if they go out," said Mr Karaduman.
"The orders are no hair should be seen from the outside, only the face and the hands up to the wrist can be visible. Skirts should reach to the ankles. Clothing must not be transparent and no body lines should be visible. The framework is clearly defined by God in the Book."

The conflict over women's dress in Istanbul takes curious turns. On civil rights grounds, miniskirted students turn out to protest in support of their headscarved friends, some of whom opt to go abroad to study. Others adopt the headscarf less out of religious conviction than as an act of teenage rebellion. Yet others pin back and cover their hair and then don a wig to get the coveted university place without compromising their beliefs.

Like everywhere else, fashion is made by young people on the street - and watched, picked up, manufactured and marketed by the industry. According to Mr Karaduman, women are creating a new fashion by adapting the banned headscarf to try to satisfy their religious obligations.

One product he sells, but refuses to manufacture himself, is Islamic swimwear. The ground floor of his store includes shelves laden with brightly coloured tracksuit-style swimming costumes for the growing number of Muslim women eager to head for the stunning resorts of the Aegean but previously kept out of the water by strictures on modesty.

The trousers and top, cap and hood leave only the hands, feet, and face uncovered. Mr Karaduman worries, however, that bits of the costume could ride up while swimming to reveal patches of female flesh. "I'm afraid I'd be a sinner if we made them."

Cemal Colgecen has no such qualms. Around the corner from the Karaduman store, Mr Colgecen's Chastity Swimwear is also doing a roaring trade as one of several companies exploiting a growing market to serve the upwardly mobile, increasingly monied, but culturally conservative Turkish middle class.

His summer 2006 collection features head-to-toe suits in pinks, oranges and turquoise with names such as Hawaii, Miami, and Flower. "A lot of people don't know you can get swimwear like this," he says.
"But through advertising, we're selling more and more. It used to be that Islamic women had no options, few places to go to swim. Now it's changing."

Under the Erdogan government, and much to the chagrin of the fiercely anti-religious establishment, the options available to holiday-seeking Muslims with money are expanding.

Alcohol-free resorts are opening with separate-sex swimming pools, or fenced-off or curtained-off beaches. For such women-only beaches and pools, Mr Colgecen is selling briefer and less restrictive costumes featuring skirts and shorts and minus the headgear, not unlike Edwardian swimwear. For mixed bathing, though, full cover-up is de rigueur. Mr Colgecen admits there are problems. "There have been cases where they put a curtain up for swimming and the mayor's office ordered it taken down. They say the beach has to be open to everyone. They have no respect. It should be a matter of choice. The ones who want to have conservative swimming, they come to us."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Why would a teacher's headscarf "unduly influence" a student?

Germany 01.06.2006
Another German State Bans Headscarf for Teachers

Germany's most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, joins seven other states in forbidding teachers in public schools from wearing the Muslim headscarf.

The law banning Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves was adopted on Wednesday by the regional parliament of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, where the conservative Christian Democrats hold a majority. The Social Democrats and the Greens voted against it.

That means that Muslim teachers in half of all German states are forbidden to wear headscarves. With the exception of Berlin, those states -- Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Bremen, Hesse, Lower Saxony and Saarland -- are all in the western part of Germany, and the majority of the country's 8 million Turks live there and in the capital.

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany, which represents 3 million Muslims, called the new law unconstitutional because it does not treat all religions as equal, banning only the headscarf and not the Christian cross or any other religious symbols.
They argue that the measure practically bans Muslim women who wear traditional headscarves from working as teachers. Furthermore, young women students who adhere to Muslim traditions are now practically expelled form the workplace.

The hijab, or headscarf, meant to shield Muslim women from the eyes of men outside their family, has been the subject of growing debate in several parts of Europe for more than a decade. But it especially intensified following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Germany has increased its integration efforts regarding immigrants but grapples with sensitive issues such as headscarves
Amid heightened fears that wearing a veil is a symbol of fundamentalist Islam, the headscarf issue on another level also reflects sensitive topics such as the modern secular identities of European states, the compatibility of Islam with largely Christian Europe, the acceptance of immigrants, integration and religious rights.

There was a heated debate in Germany, the home to the world's biggest Turkish community outside Turkey, about whether headscarves should be banned in schools in 2003, when such a law was proposed in France. It was adopted by the French parliament in 2004.
Baden-Württemberg was the first German state to take action, passing a law in 2003 forbidding teachers to wear the attire. But Germany's highest tribunal, the Constitutional Court, ruled soon after that Baden-Württemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing a headscarf in the classroom.

It did say, however, that Germany's 16 states could legislate independently to ban religious apparel if it was deemed to unduly influence children, which has subsequently created a patchwork quilt of varying rules throughout the country.

Teacher Fereshta Ludin of Afghani origin brought the first case in 2003 to keep her job in Baden-Württemberg
Expelled from the workplace
Muslim groups have fiercely criticized the bans as compromising their freedom of religious expression. Muslims makes up Germany's third largest religious community, after Protestants and Catholics.

The German state laws tend to stop short of limits set by controversial new legislation in neighboring France which outlaws Islamic headscarves and other religious insignia in state schools outright, applying to both teachers and students. Still, in some states such as Berlin, the wearing of headscarves by Muslims is banned for all civil servants.

DW staff