Rama Pir, southern
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Dial a fatwa rings up religious rulings
Call centre staffed with muftis responding to queries from Muslims so successful
October 15, 2008
Normally, the soft-spoken Islamic scholar dispenses religious advice to his faithful from a nearby mosque.
Today, he is issuing religious edicts from a cramped cubical at the world's first fatwa call centre, a toll-free government line whose popularity easily eclipses attendance at his Friday prayer sermon.
All Fatwa’s issued through the call centre adhere to the government's moderate religious stand. Fatwa’s issued from elsewhere are now considered invalid, according to the new orders from Emirates rulers.
The phone number - 800-2244 - is used by Muslims all over the world, and receives about 3,700 calls a day, including queries from the West.
"I am tired, so tired. I hear ringing in my ears," Mr. Ammoura says midway through a six-hour shift that has seen the switchboard light up with more than a thousand queries.
He is still distressed by his last caller, a married woman whose alcoholic husband had turned violent, hitting her and forcing her to have sex.
Should she seek a divorce, the woman asked?
"I said 'No. It is better for him to find help. Maybe he will be good by you.' A woman living alone with children could face too many problems," the mufti recounted, before taking another call.
The UAE, a staunch Western ally, follows the Maliki
"The legal opinions which have come out of this school have always been balanced and moderate," said Khaled Saif Al Neyadi, the call centre's assistant general manager.
The 48 muftis who answer the phones - there are also a handful of women scholars - are subject to strict a screening by the Islamic Affairs Authority, officials say.
They work in teams, with six men and two women staffing two six-hour shifts, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on all working days. A Skeleton staffs answers the phones for "religious emergencies" during the night.
Inspiration for the call centre came from telephone banking, he said.
Callers can select service in three languages - Arabic, Urdu or English - before their call is directed to a "specialized mufti" who will serve as a "trustworthy guide for your religious enquiries."
A giant flat screen television is mounted on the wall, showing the number of callers currently on hold, the number of calls answered and average waiting time, which can stretch up to 20 minutes.
Most callers have questions about the rules of worship, relationships and business.
The muftis said that so far, none of their callers had questions relating to any kind of extremism or violence.
"The hardest questions I am asked involve sex," said Mr. Ammoura, who began his career as an imam in the UAE air force, 25 years ago.
"I feel shame," he said, "but I have to answer the questions because it is my duty."
Muslims can also send their queries to a website, http://www.awqaf.ae or by SMS, with a maximum 270-character response.
Each call is supposed to be limited to three minutes, but the muftis complain callers break the rules, refusing to hang up, or calling repeatedly with the same question.
Officials won't disclose the cost of the call centre. Depending on their qualifications, a mufti can earn between $2,500 and $4,600 each month, not including overtime.
There are also plans for expansion - hiring 50 more muftis and opening satellite call centres elsewhere in the Muslim world.
"We were not prepared for the popularity," said Mr. Al Neyadi. "Already, we get more calls more than Emirates Airlines."
A fatwa is an opinion on Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar.
The most notorious are those calling for someone's execution, such as the 1989 edict by Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini demanding the death of author Salman Rushdie because his novel The Satanic Verses was considered blasphemous to Islam.
But most Fatwa’s deal with less inflammatory matters, such as what forms of dress and behaviour are allowed under Islam.
In countries with Islamic law, there's usually a national body to issue official fatwa’s, which can be legally binding. In Sunni Islam, fatwa’s are regarded more like suggestions or guidance on life issues, but in Shia Islam, they can be considered binding depending on the status of the issuing scholar.
As Muslims struggle to reconcile a modern lifestyle with the edicts of a religious doctrine more than 1,200 years old, many are seeking guidance from the many websites that have sprung up, where users can search a database of fatwa’s and ask their own questions if no answer exists. One recent seeker wondered whether the Islamic prohibition against alcohol extended to face creams containing cetyl and stearyl alcohol.
Without a central religious body for Islam, however, the qualifications of some scholars are dubious, meaning anyone can issue a fatwa.
'Muslim' shouldn't be a slur
Both McCain and Obama should condemn implicit attacks on Muslims and Arabs.
By Constance L. Rice
October 15, 2008
Excuse me, but when did the words "Muslim" and "Arab" become acceptable epithets?
I'm not a Muslim, and perhaps I was slow to see this coming. Four months ago, I blithely advised a group at a local mosque not to obsess over the anti-Muslim undertones of the presidential campaign. At that point, Barack Obama was defending his Christian bona fides against "accusations" of "being a Muslim" (as if it had suddenly become a Class-D felony), but was doing so without condemning the implicit slurs against Islam, Muslims and Arabs.
In a "don't worry, be happy" tone, I breezily noted that although the stoking of racial fear and xenophobia was a cherished tradition of American politics, I really didn't think that this time around the candidates would permit the wholesale slander of Islam or Muslims.
Apparently, I was wrong. The undertones have become screaming overtones. And it is past time to object.
If it wasn't clear before, it became crystal clear last week in the aftermath of Republican rallies. Fomenting fear to shore up drooping support, Republicans sadly used heated demagoguery about "palling around with terrorists," about "Barack Hussein Obama" and about how Obama doesn't "see America like you and I," words that mixed subliminally to conflate "terror" with "Muslim" and to whip crowds into xenophobic anger. After his enraged supporters were recorded uttering death threats and racial slurs, McCain was forced on several occasions to try to tamp down the anger in the audience and to defend his opponent.
That was a good step one -- until McCain blew it. A woman stood up in the audience and said that she just couldn't trust Obama because, as she put it, "he's an Arab." McCain shook his head, took the microphone and said: "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."
So, what is he saying? Arabs aren't decent family men? They can't be citizens?
The fact is, neither McCain nor Obama -- who continues to combat absurd attacks on his Americanness -- has been willing to speak out against the implicit slurs against Arabs and Islam.
Is it really too difficult for Obama to respond: "For the hundredth time, I am a Christian, and if you are suggesting that there is something wrong with Islam or being a Muslim, you are wrong"?
Would it be so hard for McCain to say: "There is no room in my campaign or in America for religious or ethnic intolerance -- that's what we're fighting against"?
Maybe I missed the denunciations amid all the hoopla over field-dressing moose, but it looks like the next ice age will arrive before the NAACP, the National Conference of Christians and Jews or the Anti-Defamation League loudly objects to the implicit defamation of Muslims and Arabs that has seeped into this presidential campaign.
Women rightly protested gender bias during Hillary Clinton's run, but we failed to strongly challenge the earlier bias against Mormons during Mitt Romney's bid, and we are currently failing to refute the anti-Muslim bias embedded in the assaults on Obama.
It is a failure we need to correct now.
Constance L. Rice is a civil rights attorney in Los Angeles.
First Time FBI Calls Case an 'Honour Killing'
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
By Maxim Lott
Almost a year after two teenage girls were found dead — allegedly executed by their father — in the back seat of a taxicab in Texas, the FBI is saying for the first time that the case may have been an "honour killing."
Sarah Said, 17, and her sister Amina, 18, were killed on New Year's Day, but for nine months authorities deflected questions about whether their father — the prime suspect and the subject of a nationwide manhunt — may have targeted them because of a perceived slight upon his honour.
The girls' great-aunt, Gail Gartrell, says the girls' Egyptian-born father killed them both because he felt they disgraced the family by dating non-Muslims and acting too Western, and she called the girls' murders an honour killing from the start.
But the FBI held off on calling it an honour killing until just recently, when it made Yaser Abdel Said the "featured fugitive" on its Web site.
"That's what I've been trying to tell everybody all along," Gartrell told FOXNews.com. "I would say that's a victory."
But some Muslims say that calling the case an honour killing goes too far.
"As far as we're concerned, until the motive is proven in a court of law, this is [just] a homicide," Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations in Dallas, told FOXNews.com.
He said he worries that terms like "honour killing" may stigmatize the Islamic community. “We (Muslims) don’t have the market on jealous husbands ... or domestic violence,” Carroll said.
The United Nations estimates that 5,000 women are killed worldwide every year in honour killings — mostly in the Middle East, where many countries still have laws that protect men who murder female relatives they believe have engaged in inappropriate activity. A U.N. report includes chilling examples of such cases.
“On the order of clerics, an 18-year-old woman was flogged to death in Batsail, Bangladesh, for "immoral behaviour,” the report reads. “In Egypt, a father paraded his daughter's severed head through the streets shouting, ‘I avenged my honour.’”
But Islamic scripture in no way condones such actions, Carroll said.
"People have their own cultural nuances and norms from before they got their religion," he said. "This is not Islamic culture."
Regardless of whether religion itself is to blame, Gartrell said it is important that society recognizes the case as having a cultural element, just to prevent similar crimes in the future.
"That culture is so different," Gartrell said. "If people had been more educated about it, they would have known that when the girls told people, 'Dad wants to kill me' — they were serious."
Many of the threats against Sarah and Amina Said were known to their friends and classmates.
High school friends told the Dallas Morning News that the girls sometimes came in with welts and bruises, which they confided were inflicted by their father. One time, Yaser Said reportedly went into one daughter's bedroom waving a gun and making threats on her life.
After he threatened to kill one daughter in December 2007 — documented in text messages Sarah Said sent to a friend — the girls and their mother, Patricia, fled from their home in Lewisville, Texas, to Tulsa, Okla. But the mother soon had a change of heart and went back, leading to the tragedy on January 1. Some, including Gartrell, believe the mother may even have been complicit in the murders.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler, author of several books, including "The Death of Feminism: What's Next in the Struggle for Women's Freedom," said that the case fits the description of an honour killing.
"The premeditation, the family collaboration, and the particular rules (set for the girls) make this consistent with an honour killing — not just domestic violence,” she said.
She said she hoped that calling the case an "honour killing" might indicate a shift in attitude at the FBI.
"I think this may suggest that law enforcement is beginning to realize that they may have to treat these incidents differently if they are to either prevent or prosecute," Chesler told FOXNews.com.
She noted that the United Kingdom has a special police unit to deal with “honour-related violence,” and said that she hoped that the situation in the U.S. does not get to the point where that becomes necessary.
But an FBI spokesman played down the significance of the listing, saying that the change on the wanted listing was simply due to more information coming out about the case since it was first listed and that it shouldn't matter what the case is called.
"We're just looking at how do we find the guy?" said FBI special agent Mark White, media coordinator in the bureau's Dallas office.
Irving Police Department Public Information Officer David Tull agreed. "We just look at the facts. The man killed his two daughters. This is a domestic violence, multiple-capital murder case."
Tull said that, unfortunately, there have still been no sightings or major leads — a fact that distresses Gartrell.
"I'm very upset about it," said Gartrell, who argues that the case needs special consideration. "This is not a typical murder case. When a family member murders another family member to protect [the family] name — that's different."
Europe Deals With Muslim Immigration: How they do it
Failure to Integrate in the Netherlands
Oct. 14, 2008, at 7:37 AM ET
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands—When Dutch politician Geert Wilders announced in November 2007 that he was releasing a film about the Quran, the government girded itself for potential catastrophe. Wilders, who sports a bleached-blond bouffant hairdo, has likened the Quran to Mein Kampf and called for it to be banned. His film was sure to offend Muslim sensibilities—and the Dutch had already experienced, in a visceral way, what a provocative film about the Muslim faith can unleash.
Four years ago, a radical Dutch-Moroccan murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh after he released a short documentary criticizing the treatment of women under Islam. Pinned to van Gogh's chest with a knife was a letter threatening the filmmaker's collaborator, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Wilders received his own share of "you're next" warnings; both he and Ali have been under heavy police protection ever since.
Van Gogh's brutal killing prodded a fundamental change in the Netherlands' immigration laws. It came just two years after another convulsive event—the murder of populist politician Pim Fortuyn, who had advocated halting all immigration into the Netherlands. It was the first political assassination in Holland in more than 300 years, and it deeply shook Dutch society. Conservative parties were swept into power in the national election immediately after the killing of Fortuyn. The vicious attack on van Gogh bolstered the government's mandate to crack down—and former Minister for Immigration and Integration Rita Verdonk (popularly known as "Iron Rita") made the most of the opportunity.
Declaring the days of "cozy tea drinking" with Muslim groups to be over, Verdonk ushered in a series of reforms that stanched immigration from Morocco and Turkey. Holland had imported workers from those countries in the 1960s and early '70s, and although the guest-worker program was discontinued in the mid-1970s, family reunification and, more recently, marriages between Dutch residents and people from their ancestral homelands sustained the migratory flow. Approximately 10 percent of Holland's 16.4 million inhabitants have non-Western roots, and about 1 million of these residents are Muslim.
Verdonk didn't explicitly slam the door on people from countries with large Muslim populations. But since March 2006, immigrants from the developing world—essentially, outside of Europe, the United States, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia—have been required to sit for a Dutch-language test and a culture exam. The culture component includes a video featuring nudity and homosexuality. Presumably, most people watching the film keep their cool even if what they see offends their religious sensibilities. The language test, however, proved to be a real hurdle for many aspiring Dutch residents. Visa applications dropped by one-third, and about one-tenth of the people who sit for the exam flunk it. According to Dutch government statistics, immigration from Turkey and Morocco has declined by 60 percent since 2003.
Those figures could soon creep back upward, however: This summer, a district court in the Netherlands held that men and women seeking to move to Holland to be reunited with family did not have to sit for the exam because the authorizing legislation did not explicitly mention it in the clause referring to family reunification. That means the target of Verdonk's initiative—the spouses of guest workers and their descendants—will no longer have to demonstrate minimum proficiency in Dutch in order to move to the Netherlands. Groups like Human Rights Watch lauded the decision. But even Dutch citizens who don't share Verdonk's politics can see the rationale. When Verdonk pointed out that there were some 600,000 people living in the Netherlands who didn't speak Dutch, no one needed to be told whom she was referring to. Senay Ozdemir, editor of a magazine for Muslim women, points out that the isolation many young brides from Turkey and Morocco experience makes it hard for them to adjust to Dutch society. "These women oftentimes have an idealized vision of what their lives will be like in Holland," she says. "They heard other stories about Europe and the Netherlands, that they would be free and live in a rich way." The reality of being cordoned off in immigrant neighbourhoods and being largely dependent on their spouses can come as a shock—and, of course, makes the women particularly vulnerable to abuse.
One impact of Verdonk's reforms over the last two years has been to change the profile of immigrants to the Netherlands. The country is now a net exporter of people. Of the 117,000 people who settled in the country in 2007, the majority were either returning Dutch citizens or citizens of countries like Poland, Germany, and Bulgaria. As EU citizens, these men and women have an automatic right to live in Holland, although Bulgarians do not, as yet, have permission to work there.
Verdonk's approach didn't just change the profile of foreigners settling in the Netherlands—it also had an effect on immigrants who had been living in the country for decades. In particular, there are signs that the anti-immigrant tone behind the new laws polarized some citizens of foreign descent. At the Vrije University in Amsterdam, I met a number of students who wore head scarves even though their mothers did not. One woman who did not cover her head told me that her younger sister had elected to do so after anti-Muslim rhetoric reached a crescendo two years ago. Abdou Menebhi, chairman of Emcemo, a Moroccan interest group in Amsterdam, said it was common for second- and third-generation immigrants to embrace an Islamic identity in a way their parents hadn't. "They are experiencing a crisis of identity," he said. "And they are more willing than their parents to react to the prejudice they feel."
Their parents found a society governed by a more laissez faire ethos. For most of the last half-century, there was a taboo on criticizing people of a different ethic origin. That had a lot to do with a guilty national conscience: About three-quarters of Holland's Jews died in the Holocaust, one of the highest percentages in Western Europe. That painful reckoning was one reason the Dutch instituted liberal laws not only regarding rights for women and gays but also in accepting foreigners.
The statute of limitations on World War II guilt appears to have run out after the murders of Fortuyn and van Gogh. Still, the Dutch didn't embrace some of Verdonk's more extreme ideas, like banning the speaking of foreign languages on the street. Verdonk was forced to give up her Cabinet post in February 2007 when her party fared poorly in national elections and the fraught rhetoric around immigration died down in the aftermath. Wilders' video was not as provocative as he'd led people to believe. The grand mufti of Syria had warned of "war and bloodshed" if the Quran were defaced on-screen. Wilders avoided doing so explicitly. There were no significant disturbances on the streets of the Netherlands to protest his work. For the time being, at least, the Dutch appear to have achieved an uneasy truce over immigration.
Nonetheless, the legacy of the Netherlands' guest-worker program has made for a riven society. Across Europe—and the United States—immigrants often live in self-contained worlds. But here their isolation is particularly jarring.
The Jan Galenstraat neighbourhood is just 20 minutes away from the centre of Amsterdam, but it feels very far from the tony restaurants and gezellig homes most visitors associate with the nation's most-visited city. Drab brown high-rises stand behind tall gates. Few pedestrians walk the streets. What is most striking, however, are the gray satellite dishes that hang from virtually every balcony. This ubiquitous appendage has earned these neighbourhoods the moniker "satellite cities." The dishes receive programming from Morocco and Turkey, allowing expatriates to feel they are still connected to their homelands even as they live a continent away.
Festival time for Pakistani Hindus
By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Rama Pir, southern Pakistan
Jodha, a Hindu woman from the nomadic Jogi tribe of snake-charmers, made a vow at the temple of Rama Pir in southern Pakistan that if blessed with a son, she would make a pilgrimage to the temple every year for the rest of her life.
That was just after her wedding, more than four years ago, when her husband took her to the temple fair in Tando Allahyar town of Sindh province.
Her son was born a year later.
Before the partition of India, the Jogis, one of several low caste Hindus, or Dalits, roamed from the Tharparkar desert in Sindh, now Pakistan, to Gujarat and Rajasthan in India.
They still travel vast distances between Sindh's south-western industrial city of Karachi and the agrarian and desert communities they inhabit in the areas eastwards towards the Indian border.
But no matter where she is, when the time comes for the annual fair in honour of Rama Pir, a holy man who lived some 400 years ago, Jodha heads to Tando Allahyar, with her son and husband in tow.
The family is among tens of thousands of Dalits that make the pilgrimage.
Some, like Reshma and her family, come to do business that would earn them a little extra money besides paying homage to Rama Pir.
Others combine religious duty with fun and games as an entire amusement park- complete with mechanised merry-go-rounds and roller-coaster rides - appears in an open space behind the temple.
Most of them come to seek deliverance from one worldly ordeal or another.
Basanti, a Dalit woman from the Bheel sub-caste, is childless after three years of marriage.
She has bought several kilograms of sweets from the market outside the temple for distribution among the pilgrims as prasad, or offering.
"I will keep doing it until Rama Pir blesses me with a child; I don't mind if it is a boy or a girl," she says.
A chemistry graduate from Tharparkar, Pratap Rai, has been distributing prasad on all three days of the fair for the last five years.
"My brother was critically ill, but he miraculously recovered when I made a vow at the temple that I will offer sweets to pilgrims every year for as long as my legs carry me from Tharparkar to Tando Allahyar," he said.
Unlike the vast majority of pilgrims, Pratap Rai is not a Dalit, but an upper caste Brahmin.
According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, there are approximately three million Hindus in Pakistan. Nearly 2.5 million of them live in Sindh province and more than 80% of the total are Dalits.
Local people describe Rama Pir's festival as a nearly exclusive Dalit event, even though the caretaker of the temple is a Brahman.
Arjun Solanki, a local Dalit who is studying medicine at Sindh University, offers an explanation for this.
"Rama Pir was a Dalit convert to the Ismaili Shia faith. He organised lower-caste Hindus against the exploitative Brahmanic and Bania classes of medieval Rajasthan. He was a secular, revolutionary leader," he says.
But after his death, the upper-caste Hindus Brahanised his cult by declaring him as an ethnic Rajput - an upper-caste Hindu warrior clan, says Arjun.
Rama Pir lived and died in Ranuja, a town some 150km (93 miles) from Jodhpur, the capital of Rajasthan.
The temple in Tando Allahyar, according to a local tradition, was built by a native Dalit in the latter half of the 19th Century in fulfilment of a vow he had taken during an earlier pilgrimage to Ranuja.
Like Jodha, he had wished for a son, which was granted to him.
The three-day festival commemorates that event. It falls in the Hindu solar month of Buddo - the last month of the Indian monsoon cycle - when the winter crops have been sown.
Its actual date is calculated from the new moon occurring in this month. As a result, the fair falls either in September or October.
While many claim their wishes have been granted by Rama Pir, the major beneficiary of the fair appears to be the shopkeepers of the market outside the temple.
More than 90% of them are Muslim, and an increasing number have grown beards in keeping with the increasing influence of Islamists in the region.
A Hindu festival, where non-Muslim women go about without a veil, is not to the liking of some of them.
"These people are poor and ignorant, they follow the wrong religion," comments one shopkeeper when I introduce myself as a BBC reporter.
He has a word of advice for me.
"Do your duty as a Muslim. Don't give them coverage."
But he wouldn't stop selling his merchandise to the pilgrims.
"I have been selling an average of 150 crates (1,800 bottles) of Pepsi each day since the fair started," he comments in an unguarded moment.
Islamic militants shifting from Iraq
New York Times
Oct. 14, 2008, 11:04PM
Afghan security officers’ move to a safe area after a fuel station caught fire Tuesday in the city of Herat, west of Kabul. It was unclear if the fire was accidental or a planned attack. Meanwhile, Kai Eide, U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, said Tuesday that Taliban insurgents probably won't ease up on attacks this winter as they have in the past, because their influence has spread beyond Kabul.
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — American military successes in Iraq have prompted growing numbers of well-trained "foreign fighters" to join the insurgency in Afghanistan instead, the Afghan defence minister said Tuesday.
Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak said the increased flow of insurgents from outside Afghanistan had contributed to the "worst" fighting here since the toppling of the Taliban government by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
U.S. commanders have said that violence here has increased by 30 percent in the past year.
The general said that "the success of coalition forces in Iraq" had combined with developments in countries neighbouring Afghanistan to cause "a major increase in the number of foreign fighters" coming to Afghanistan.
Also Tuesday, the NATO command said three coalition soldiers were killed in eastern Afghanistan when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb. The attack was claimed by the Taliban.
Early Islamic era industrial site may have been found in Mazandaran
Tehran Times Culture Desk
TEHRAN -- A team of archaeologists working in Savadkuh believe that they have discovered an early Islamic era industrial site in the region in Iran’s northern Mazandaran Province.
The site is located at Shirkhanepei near Pahluj, where the team has recently found a late Sassanid and an early Islamic cemetery, team director Mehdi Abedini told the Persian service of CHN on Tuesday.
“The site is surmised to be an industrial area for making pottery works due to the discovery of a large amount of shards, the earth affected by fire, and the remains of kilns used for baking the pottery works,” he added.
Abedini believes that Shirkhanepei had properly been selected for pottery making.
“There would have been easy access to water from the nearby river and wood from the adjacent forest. In addition, Savadkuh is a windy region and thus it would have provided appropriate draft for firing kilns,” he argued.
The team has also found signs of habitation near the kilns.
Over the past 3000 years, the Savadkuh region has been used by immigrants from Central Asia.
The region, home to several sites dating from the Iron Age to the early Islamic era will be completely submerged by the newly constructed Alborz Dam, which is about to become operational.
In September, Abedini’s team discovered some graves with an unknown style of burial, in which nails had been placed upside down in the earth in order to hold a sheet of wood above each body.
The graves are located at the Pahluj site of the Savadkuh region.
Philippine Muslim rebels to take case to UN
The Associated Press
Published: October 15, 2008
MANILA, Philippines: Muslim rebels in the Philippines said Wednesday they will take their case to the U.N. and Islamic nations after the Supreme Court threw out a proposed deal with the government to boost their autonomy.
The court on Tuesday declared unconstitutional the draft accord to grant minority Muslims expanded self-rule in their southern homeland in a bid to end decades of separatist rebellion.
Violence in the southern Mindanao region flared up in August, leaving nearly 100 dead and half a million displaced, after Christian politicians protested the planned signing of the accord and rebels went on a bloody rampage.
The government then abandoned the deal, suspended peace talks and launched an offensive to punish three rebel commanders blamed for the attacks.
Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the only option left for the rebels was to take the accord to the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to seek their guarantees that if talks resume their outcome will be respected.
"We will bring it to a forum where the voices of the Moros will be heard," he said.
He criticized President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government for backing out of the deal after 11 years of negotiations, and said militants within the rebel ranks who are opposed to the peace process may stage fresh attacks.
"After long years, we came to a point that seemed to bolster what the anti-negotiation groups are saying: that the government could not be trusted," Iqbal said.
The rebel group — with an estimated 11,000 fighters — has been battling for self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's volatile south for decades.
Despite the latest setback, both sides said they will respect a 2003 cease-fire, which has been monitored by a handful of international observers.
U.S. and Philippine officials had hoped a peace accord would transform the resource-rich southern Philippines into a bustling economic hub instead of a breeding ground for terrorists.
Toy doll outrages community, suspicious Islamic phrase
Oct 15, 2008 02:53 AM
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - A children's baby doll has some across the country and in the Lafayette are angered because of its scripted sounds.
The Little Mommy Cuddle 'n Coo doll, a Fisher Price toy, has upset a few buyers. One area resident, who wants to remain anonymous, purchased this toy from the Target store in Lafayette. It wiggles, coos and said "mama." It's marketed to do all of those things, but that may not be the only message coming from the toy, which is made in China.
After waving a hand in front of the motion censored doll, the anonymous purchaser swears the toy said "Islam is the light."
A spokesperson from Fisher Price said the sound may resemble something close to the words "night, right, or light." The store eliminated that sound file from future production to avoid any potential misinterpretation. The spokesperson said the toy features realistic baby sounds with no real sentences structure. The only scripted word is "mama."
A spokesperson from Wal-Mart said the store has not issued a nation-wide product withdrawal, but some stores have decided to remove the product. The West Lafayette Wal-Mart took the doll off the shelf. The Lafayette Wal-Mar did not removed the doll from its shelves. The Lafayette Target still has the doll on the shelf.
The Purdue Islamic Student Association's Faculty Advisor, Hussein Ragheb, listened to the doll's recording over the telephone. He said the message is difficult to interpret and he seriously doubts the doll said the alleged Islamic phrase. He said Islam has other ways to get its message out.
If consumers have any questions or concerns regarding any Mattel or Fisher-Price toys, they may contact the store's consumer relations centre at 800.524.TOYS (8697).
"Report by Renetta DuBose, WLFI."
Taliban Vows Suicide Attacks by Women
October 14, 2008
According to a report in the Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Mashriq, the Taliban in Afghanistan have rejected any offer of talks with the Afghan government.
Zabeehullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, said the Taliban will not be part of any talks that are not in the interests of Afghanistan and other Islamic nations. He said the Taliban will continue the war until the U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan.
The Taliban spokesman said that more suicide attacks against the U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan will be carried out. He said that thousands of suicide bombers, including a significant number of women, have joined the ranks of the Taliban.
Taking a page from the Iraqi jihad manual, I presume.
Bahrain Islamic Bank profit up 84 per cent
MANAMA: Bahrain Islamic Bank (BIsB) saw net profit rise 84 per cent in the third quarter of the year up from $46 million for the third quarter of last year to $85m.
"This excellent performance is attributed to the balance in diversifying investment risk, proper application of the bank's financial policies and extreme care in not involving the bank's financial resources and investments in high risk transactions that could undermine the bank's financial position," said BIsB chairman Khalid Abdulla Al Bassam.
In spite of the prevailing global financial crisis due to the US mortgage credit crisis, the bank was able, through the application of the Sharia compliance standards laid down by its Sharia Supervisory Board, to properly select its banking transactions to achieve positive results, he said.
In addition, the bank enjoys a high level of liquidity that would enable it to go forward with confident steps.
Operating income rose 63pc to $153m. The increase was due to the growth in retail and corporate finance and attractive returns from the bank's diversified investments.
Total income from investment accounts amounted to $32m.
"The bank enjoys a strong financial position as its total assets increased by 47pc during third quarter of 2008 amounting to $2.5 billion," said chief executive Mohamed Ebrahim Mohamed.
"Such increase focused on finance transaction and continuous growth and diversification of investments in general.
"These figures also show a significant growth in investment portfolios of all types to reduce risks according to the bank's general policy.
"The bank also launched new products to raise its share of Islamic finance and deposits in the local market. Further new products are set to be launched before the end of this year."
He added that the bank's executive management was closely monitoring developments on the world financial markets and the difficulties experienced by certain international banks due to the pursuit of certain policies.
The bank's management believes that compliance with the rules and principles of Sharia provided the solution for all crises and difficulties.
Islamic Development Bank to help Pakistan
October 15, 2008
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has assured Pakistan of its help and co-operation in enabling it to meet the economic challenges the country currently faces, according to Dr Ahmad Muhammad Ali, president of the Jeddah-based institution.
Dr Ali, who is here for the Fall meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund was speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday morning. He said he had exchanged views with the leader of the Pakistani delegation Shaukat Tareen and offered him the Bank’s co-operation. However, no specifics had been discussed or committed. That appears to have been a common thread running through all the meetings the Pakistani delegation has held here with finance ministers from various countries and representatives of international financial institutions and banks. Expressions of goodwill have characterized these meetings but at the end of the day in what material terms those expression of goodwill and co-operation are translated, remains to be seen.
Dr Ali, who hails from Saudi Arabia and who has headed the IDB since its founding in 1975, told journalists that despite the financial crisis engulfing the region, his institution remains financially strong and despite the current market conditions, it will be able to meet its commitment to member countries and continue to conduct its normal operations.
The IDB’s investment operations are governed by Sharia and because of that, it has not been exposed to products linked to sub-prime mortgages that led to the present financial crisis in the United States and, consequently, in the rest of the world. The Bank’s capital base is listed at $23 billion. However, the Bank does face a challenge, given the anticipated impact of the current economic crisis on its 56 member countries. The picture, Dr Ali added, is not yet clear but it is obvious that the availability of credit will be “severely curtailed”, with a rippling impact on food, other economic activities and United Nations-sponsored Millennium Development Goals. He said the Bank had successfully launched in January this year the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development to combat poverty in member countries. Two of its ongoing programmes were related to microfinance and vocational training. The Bank had also launched a $4 billion, 5-year Special Programme for the Development of Africa in March this year. The Bank hopes to mobilise between three to four billion dollars from other partners against every dollar it spends. He said as many as 360 million people in 27 member counties of the Bank were living below one dollar a day. Asked if there had been defaults from member countries to whom the IDB had lent money, he replied that the repayment record of member countries was ‘very good’.
40 militants killed in latest Pakistani offensive
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
The Pakistani security forces are claiming to have killed at least 40 Islamic militants during the latest series of clashes near the country's border with Afghanistan.
Two soldiers have also been killed during the violence in the Bajaur region and the Swat valley.
The military launched an major operation in the two regions in August and claims to have killed more than 1,000 militants during a string of air attacks and gunbattles.
The militants have struck back with suicide bombings across the north-west, the most recent of which killed at least 50 people in the Orazaki region on Friday.
Hamas says striking Gaza teachers won't return
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Hamas government in Gaza says it will not permit thousands of striking teachers to return to their jobs.
Tuesday's decision further heightens tensions between Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers and the government of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls the West Bank.
The Gaza strike was called in August by the West Bank-based teachers' union. It was widely seen as an attempt to disrupt daily life in Gaza and weaken Hamas.
Most of the teachers receive their salaries from the Abbas government.
Schools kept running despite the strike and Hamas hired some 2,200 new teachers and administrators.