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Islam and Human Rights ( 25 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Canadian Muslims must lose muzzle, condemn honour killings

Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, November 21, 2008


"I believe it is honour killing. That is not something that can be denied. But it is un-Islamic. It has nothing to do with my religion, and I strongly condemn it. The people doing these heinous things should be punished," Soharwardy said in an interview Thursday. Soharwardy tells of the discovery of a cemetery near where he grew up in Pakistan, where the graves of 100 women and girls were unearthed: "They had been buried by their own families, all killed in the name of honour. The Pakistani government does nothing about these honour killings, nothing at all."

Soharwardy says the notion of families forcing girls into arranged marriages is not condoned by Islam: "Not many Muslims know that, but marrying a partner of your choice is a requirement, for both the boy and girl."He agrees if evil is to be rooted out, then it has to be labelled for what it is. If we are reluctant to look evil in the face or we try to divert attention from it by accusing those who are being forthright about it of racism, then we can't fight it. People who come from cultures where honour killing occurs don't hesitate to call this evil by its name. They don't see it as a blanket condemnation of their culture, race or religion; they see it for what it is, a crime that must be stopped and whose perpetrators must be punished.

There is nothing wrong with saying that someone from another culture is doing something wrong. Canadians can continue playing a game of political correctness, but the only ones who pay the price for it will be the very women who need help the most.

© The Calgary Herald 2008



Check the ruling

Calgary Herald

Published: Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Re: "Canada must lose muzzle, condemn honour killings," Naomi Lakritz, Opinion, Nov. 21.

Syed Soharwardy states that honour killings have nothing to do with Islam. I do not believe this to be an accurate statement. A Sunni manual of Islamic law, Umdat al-Salik, states, "retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right." (Umdat al-Salik o1.1-2). However, there is an exemption to this obligatory retaliation. Mothers, fathers and grandparents can kill their children or grandchildren without penalty under this law. Perhaps Soharwardy is not aware of this particular ruling.

Ted Williams,

© The Calgary Herald 2008


Scholars fallible

Calgary Herald

Published: Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Re: "Check the ruling," Letter, Nov. 25.

Ted Williams is right when he quoted from a book on Islamic jurisprudence, Umdat al-Salik. However, what he and many other people do not know is that in Islamic law, the opinion of a scholar has no value if it contradicts the Qur'an and the "Seerah" (life) of Prophet Muhammad. Umdat al-Salik was written by Imam Ahmed Ibn Naqib Al Masry in the mid-1300s. It does not supersede Qur'an and the Prophet.

Islam does not allow vigilante justice. It is the state's responsibility to hold a person responsible for committing a crime. Parents, sisters, brothers, husbands and community elders cannot become vigilantes. In the Qur'an and in the life of Prophet Muhammad, there is no such thing as honour killings.

Marrying someone of your choice is a requirement of faith and it is not a crime. Punishing a woman for getting raped is un-Islamic, unethical and inhumane. Even a person who commits adultery, which is a crime in Islamic law, cannot be punished by anybody except government-appointed authorities.

If people in my faith would return to the root of the Prophet's teachings, rather than trying to interpret in either a violent direction or a secular bent, Islam would be better understood. I have set up a Freedom of Speech Centre at the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre. I invite Calgarians to come and discuss these issues in a very friendly and free environment.

Syed Soharwardy,


Syed Soharwardy is an Imam and president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.

© The Calgary Herald 2008




Imam plans centre to promote free speech

Calgary Herald

Published: Thursday, November 20, 2008

Human Rights - A Calgary imam who walked across Canada to promote peace is planning to open a centre that will encourage freedom of speech.

Syed Sohawardy said he plans to open a Freedom of Speech Centre based out of the Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre by January.

"We want to give a platform for Calgarians to express their opinions from the bottom of their heart and without any fear," Sohawardy said, noting the centre will invite guests to speak on issues of the day.

"We will discuss those topics freely and openly and come together as human being with different ideas and different perceptions and feelings."

Sohawardy said he got the idea to open the centre from some of the people he met during his cross-Canada Multifaith Walk Against Violence.

 It would be similar to Hyde Park in London, which has long been considered a great forum of free speech because people regularly show up to address small groups of people.



Ismaili Muslim leader says Canada's diversity is a model for the world

Nov 26, 2008

VANCOUVER, B.C. - The leader of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims says Canada's pluralism is a model to the world.

The Aga Khan thanked Canada for welcoming Ismailis, a moderate group within the Shia wing of Islam, who were forced to flee persecution and conflict in their own countries over the years.

"Canada has been the country which has been most generous, most thoughtful, most helpful in bringing people to Canada from these difficult backgrounds, offering them a new opportunity ... to live in a society which is pluralist, which is conscious of quality, which is conscious of human development and human values," he told a luncheon group Tuesday.

The Aga Khan, who assumed the title from his grandfather in 1957 at age 20, was in Vancouver on Tuesday to cap a four-city tour of Canada celebrating the 50th anniversary of his position as the community's 49th Imam.

He held a private meeting with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell before the two went into a lunch with about 100 prominent guests.

Campbell praised the wealthy, Swiss-born religious leader's philanthropic work through his Aga Khan Development Network, which works in 29 countries, including Afghanistan.

"For decades now you have partnered with Canadians to build a new infrastructure of hope that's based on education and pluralism, on health, on creating for individuals the sense of themselves, the promise that they have and the possibility that exists in the world in which they live," Campbell said.

Canada's great strength is its diversity, said Campbell, a theme the Aga Khan built on in his brief address.

Canada not only sheltered Ismailis who escaped persecution in countries such as Uganda in the 1970s, he said, but allowed them to prosper so that some could return home, bringing Canadian values with them.

"You have given them the wherewithal to return to their countries in due course and bring back to Africa, bring back to Asia ... the pluralism, the values of Canada, the knowledge society that you have created here in Canada," the Aga Khan said.

He said he sometimes jokes that more and more Ismaili leaders around the world are Canadian.

"You don't have a colonialist history but you are colonialising the Aga Khan Development Network," he said.

One of the unique traits Canadian Ismailis bring back is an ability to promote knowledge needed to become globally competitive in a way that does not threaten traditional societies in many developing countries, he said.

"Knowledge in its purest form is often abrasive," the Aga Khan said. "When this knowledge comes into these societies it creates difficulties, creates reactions because the societies are not prepared for pure knowledge.

"What Canada has done is it has humanized that knowledge."

Canada, he said, continues to be a partner on common issues such as early-childhood development, how traditional societies can work in a modern environment and pluralist government based on merit, not manipulation.

The Aga Khan was scheduled later to preside over a service that's expected to draw upwards of 18,000 Ismailis to BC Place Stadium.