Afghani girls pass acid test by Somdatta Sengupta
Radio disc jockey Michael Smith accused of anti-Islamic remarks over hijab by Robyn Ironside
Married Iranian Muslim Cleric Sex Tape Video by Toshiba Reynolds
The hunt for
View: Reviving Muslim democracy - Charles Tannock
Hamas: Victory is close
Osama vs. Obama (and Everyone Else) by Noah Shachtman
One on One: It's religion, stupid! By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
Abuse of religious fervour paves way to doom by HASSAN ABBAS
Obama’s inheritance of torture
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Afghan editor arrested for alleged blasphemy
KABUL (AFP) — An Afghan news editor has been arrested for a publishing a newspaper article rejecting that religions, including Islam, were passed to humans through divine revelations, an official said Wednesday.
The news editor of a small
"He was arrested for publishing an article in which he has rejected revelation. This is an insult to Islam and the rest of the religions," Faqiryar said.
The journalist, whom Faqiryar would not name, was being investigated. If found guilty under Afghanistan's law, which is based on Islamic Sharia law, he could face a sentence ranging from a reprimand to the death penalty, the official said.
The journalist was arrested after a council of Islamic clerics and a government media disciplinary commission found that the article was "an insult to Islam," the official said.
The paper had earlier apologised for publishing the article.
Razaq Mamoon, a former editor-in-chief, told AFP that the article had been taken from an Afghan website and was not written by the newspaper's staff.
After the hardline Islamic Taliban regime was ousted in 2001,
However, there have been several cases in which journalists have been arrested for alleged blasphemy.
Last year, a young Afghan journalism student and reporter was sentenced to death for distributing an article, downloaded from the Internet, that questioned aspects of Islam and other behaviour said to insult the religion.
The sentence was later reduced to 20 years in jail.
In September, an ex-journalist and a mullah were sentenced to 20 years in jail for producing a translation of the Koran, Islam's holy book, which allegedly contained errors.
Meanwhile, the media commission has decided to summon the owner of a privately run television station, named Imroz (Today), for broadcasting programmes in which women were not fully covered. The programmes were shown during the Ashura religious holiday, which ended recently.
OK for 10-year-old girls to marry: Saudi grand mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh
The powerful Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said in a speech late Monday that Islamic Sharia law allows the practice of pre-teen girls getting married, and that critics of the practice were doing the girls 'an injustice,' reports said.
'We hear often in the media about the marriage of minors. We must know that Sharia law is not unjust for women,' the cleric is quoted as saying.
'If it is said that a woman below 15 cannot be married, that is wrong. If a girl exceeds 10 or 12 then she is eligible for marriage, and whoever thinks she is too young, then he or she is wrong and has done her an injustice.'
His comment came in the wake of several well-publicized cases of young girls being married to men sometimes old enough to be their great-grandfathers.
On Monday a court in Taif allowed an 11-year-old girl to separate from her 75-year-old husband after the girl's mother petitioned the court, according to a report in Okaz newspaper. The girl's father had arranged the marriage in exchange for a dowry, it said.
In December a Saudi court at Unayzah, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of Riyadh, rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.
Saudi human rights groups are fighting the old practice of children being married off to much older men by their parents and seek to establish a legal minimum age for women to be married.
Afghani girls pass acid test
Jan 14, 2009
Last year The Courier reported on Highlands resident Kathy Muradi’s efforts to rebuild schools in her native town
It was only two months ago that 15 women, both students and teachers, were attacked with acid while attending school in
While the exact reason behind the attack is yet to be determined, the action was aimed at discouraging women from attending schools.
Reportedly, most Afghani women do not seek a formal education because of the conservative nature of Afghan society.
According to the report, the attacks appeared to be the work of the Taliban, the fundamentalist movement that is battling the government and the American-led coalition in
To read more about The Courier’s coverage and find out what progress Muradi has made visit Afghan Women and Children in Need.
Radio disc jockey Michael Smith accused of anti-Islamic remarks over hijab
By Robyn Ironside | January 15, 2009
Former Victorian police officer, now 4BC drive-time announcer, Michael Smith called for Muslim women who wear an Islamic hijab in public to be fined for offensive behaviour, The Courier-Mail reports.
He made the remarks on-air and on the 4BC website, saying: "Any reasonable person would find this offensive."
Islamic Council of Queensland president Suliman Sabdia said Mr Smith's remarks amounted to "a clear case of intolerance".
Under the Commercial Radio Code of Practice, a licensee must not broadcast a program likely to incite hatred against or vilify any person or group on the basis of age, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexual preference, religion, or disability.
Christine Donnelly from the Australian Communications and Media Authority said Mr Smith's comments could be a breach of the Code of Practice.
4BC general manager David McDonald said Mr Smith's remarks were not intended to be anti-religion or anti-Muslim.
Jan 14, 2009
"The advice that I give to young Portuguese girls is -- be careful with relationships, think twice about marrying Muslims," the patriarch of
"It is getting into a pile of troubles, that not even Allah knows where would end."
Policarpo made the statement at a gathering on Tuesday evening in a well-known casino that organises meetings of public figures with paying guests. His comments were repeated on several television stations on Wednesday.
There are about 40,000 Muslims in
"I know that if a young European of Christian background marries a Muslim, as soon as they go to his country, they'll be subject to the regime of Muslim women," Policarpo said. "Just imagine it."
Policarpo, a leading cardinal who was tipped as a contender in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict, also said dialogue with Muslims was not easy in
"It is only possible to dialogue with those who want to have dialogue, for example with our Muslim brothers’ dialogue is very difficult," he said.
The hunt for
By Ruth Gledhill and Michael Binyon, January 15, 2009
The search is on for the most influential Muslim women in
Companies and individuals are being invited to make nominations for the awards, run by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in association with The Times and Emel, the Muslim lifestyle magazine.
The Muslim Women Power List is intended as a celebration of the 100,000 Muslim women in
The aim is to challenge the view that Muslim women conform to a stereotype. The commission also wants to encourage mentoring and networking among Muslim women to help people fulfil their potential.
A recent survey of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women aged up to 35 by the commission found that they had the same aspirations as their non-Muslim counterparts - to balance a career with having a family - and that their families largely supported them in realising those goals.
The list is intended to focus on women in business. But those in other influential female roles, such as teachers or civil servants, can also be considered. The winners will be honoured at a dinner in
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the commission, said: “I hope our first Muslim Women Power List will make the rest of
How to apply
Any British Muslim woman over the age of 18 and in employment may apply. Nominations may be submitted by or on behalf of an individual. Nominations can be submitted up until February 16, 2009, via www.thelist2009.com.
Short listed nominees are required to:
— demonstrate significant results through strong leadership;
— illustrate successful performance in their chosen career;
— demonstrate how their actions have made a positive difference to their work and the work of others;
— demonstrate that they are viewed as a role model/figure of leadership/inspiration to their colleagues and peers.
For further information or to download a nomination pack, please visit www.thelist2009.com
View: Reviving Muslim democracy —Charles Tannock
January 15, 2009
As fears about the Islamisation of politics in the Muslim world grow,
The recent landslide victory (with a huge turnout) for the Awami League in Bangladesh’s first election in seven years, after two years of a military-backed caretaker government, has moved the country to the forefront of the battle between secular democrats and Islamists that is now underway across South Asia. The election was a credit to the country’s democratic yearnings — and I say that as the chairman of the European Parliament’s short-term election observation mission to
The new electoral register was more robust than in many Western countries, with a photo ID picture alongside each elector. The violence that had been widespread in previous Bangladeshi elections was entirely absent, with the security services’ professionalism in policing the elections — and the army’s willingness to return voluntarily to its barracks — playing a key role.
In Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,
Hasina’s enormous popularity as a former prime minister, and her status as one of only two surviving daughters of
The comprehensive defeat of the Islamist parties that sought to take
But if Hasina is to succeed in continuing to blunt Islamism, she must address the fundamental problems that have destabilised Bangladeshi society for decades. Chief among these is the poverty endured by the majority of her country’s population.
To some extent, it is surprising that the Islamist parties did not do better, considering their success elsewhere in mobilising the most marginalised and vulnerable in society. If the Awami League is unable to address the country’s systematic poverty and social inequality, Islamism may well yet succeed in rallying the impoverished to its banner. The Jama’at-e Islami, indeed, told me during my stay that they had a 30-year agenda to introduce sharia law into
The examples of Hamas and Hezbollah provide a salutary reminder of the challenges faced by the new government in
Hamas and Hezbollah prospered in this way because the governing authorities were either unable or unwilling to address grassroots poverty. In the case of Hamas, this displacement was due largely to the massive corruption of the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat, whose cronies pocketed billions of dollars intended to alleviate poverty and suffering in the Gaza Strip.
Given that endemic corruption in
Beyond fighting corruption, Hasina must also ban all foreign donations to political parties, in particular the “Wahhabi gold” that
The challenges facing the Awami League are many and varied, but it is not without resources.
With its constitutional majority, the government should ensure this outcome by restoring the 1972 Constitution, which established
Charles Tannock is UK Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the European Parliament and led the EU parliamentary delegation of election observers to the recent
Mottaki offers Islamic states to participate in Arab summit meeting
The proposal by
The Arab League summit can be held only if two thirds of the members participate.
Mottaki said the participation of Islamic states in the summit can help resolve the
Islamic nations' parliament speakers discuss
January 14, 2009
Turkish Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan said in opening remarks to the meeting Wednesday that "this tragedy cannot be allowed to continue any longer."
Hamas: Victory is close
January 13, 2009
Washington (JTA) -- The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip said victory is close.
"We trust Allah and know that he is by our side despite what people are trying to tell you to affect your spirits; I say that victory is close," Ismail Haniyeh, the Gazan prime minister, said Monday in a taped message released from his hiding place.
Haniyeh said he would cooperate with initiatives that would end
Married Iranian Muslim Cleric Sex Tape Video
By Toshiba Reynolds, Jan 14, 2009
A Muslim cleric, a religious person, has been exposed as an adulterer on video - and the Intelligence Ministry has acknowledged that the man is married and committing an unlawful act in the video.
The cleric, who is unnamed, was reportedly a member of the Friday Prayers Committee in the
The sex tape, which was leaked out of an Intelligence Ministry investigation, reveals the cleric committing unlawful adultery.
This Iranian 'religious' cleric sex tape leak is the first leak that has captured so much public attention. The video is below.
Osama vs. Obama (and Everyone Else)
By Noah Shachtman, January 14, 2009
Osama Bin Laden isn't going to let a new president get in the way of his global jihad. In a new audio statement, the Al-Qaeda chief begs for continued terror attacks around the world -- in part, to bedevil a new White House, already facing a pair of wars and an economic meltdown. At least he didn't stoop to calling the President-elect a "house Negro," like the terror group's #2 did, a little while back.
George W. Bush, Osama says in the new audio, "created a grave inheritance for his successor, and left him between two bitter options, like swallowing a two-edged dagger that will wound him however he moves it."
The worst inheritance is represented by long guerrilla warfare against a patient, stubborn opponent. This is financed by usurious loans. If he withdraws from the war, it will be a military defeat. If he continues it, he will drown in the economic crisis. How will he act, having inherited two wars, not one of which he is capable of continuing? We are on our way to open other fronts, God willing...
My Islamic ummah, all these wars, crises, and calamities have gifts inside them... you have a great opportunity... to take your rights forcibly.
...you should cooperate with your Mujahdeen sons to continue jihad against the enemies of the religion, and to continue exhausting them on these two fronts, and other fronts that are open before you against the Zio-Crusader coalition and its agents in the region, in
But Bin Laden has just started to assemble his enemies' list. He lashes out at Iraqi Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and other Islamic scholars. He bashes "media people, who falsely give legitimacy to the representatives of the Crusaders in our countries." He takes a veiled shot at other Arab countries, for taking up the
One on One: It's religion, stupid!
Jan 15, 2009 10:56
By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
'Most people in the world take their beliefs very seriously," says Roberta Green Ahmanson. "Some deadly so." Which is precisely why the 59-year-old, California-based writer and philanthropist bemoans what she calls the media's "blind spot" in relation to religion. Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion, in fact, is the title of her newly released book (published by Oxford University Press, and co-edited with Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert).
Indeed, warns the award-winning former religious-affairs reporter and editor, and co-author of Islam at the Crossroads (Baker, 2002), there is a tendency on the part of the Western press to pooh-pooh faith as a motivating force. As a result, she asserts, citizens and voters are basing their choices and decisions on false premises.
Here late last month on one of numerous visits to the Holy Land over the years - this one to celebrate Christmas - the Anglican/Episcopalian (who spent last New Year's Eve at Mumbai's
In an hour-long interview at the King David Hotel on the eve of her return to the United States, Green Ahmanson who, along with her husband, Howard Ahmanson, was named by Time magazine in 2005 as among America's 25 most influential evangelicals, explained why it is necessary for the events in Gaza to be seen in their proper context - that of "re-establishing Islamic control."
You arrived in
The events that led to the operation in
And you are certain that the press doesn't really grasp that this is a religious conflict?
In the American media, you often see the conflict reduced either to land-ownership issues or to issues related to poverty - that people who call themselves Palestinians are poor, and that
During what has come to be called the "second intifada," the media usually attributed the phenomenon of suicide bombing to desperation - though it often emerged that bomber and their dispatchers were educated and affluent. Is this what you mean by reducing the issue to poverty issues?
Yes, which brings us to the original point that this conflict is religious first. It is about re-establishing Islamic control. It's pretty much that simple - and that scary.
There are many reports of Christians fleeing Palestinian-run cities due to intimidation on the part of Muslims. Is this something about which the media have exhibited an equal blind spot? Is it, too, reported in a political, rather than religious, context?
Yes, if it's reported at all. In the
The same goes on here. I don't know how many fatalities there are; I haven't been able to follow it. To be frank, I don't know where you can follow it. But I do know that the Christian population in
What difference does it make whether the media "get it" or not?
It matters in free societies, because people make decisions and vote based on how they understand what is happening in the world. And if you don't understand the role that religion plays, you are not going to be an informed voter or an informed citizen - one who calls up your congressman and says, "I've heard about such and such; what are you doing about it?" This is the way these things work in a free society - and the quality of your action is determined by the quality of your information. If you ignore religion, you can't act very well.
A classic example is the story of Richard Ostling, Time magazine's religious affairs editor in the 1970s. He kept telling his editors that they should be watching the Ayatollah Khomeini, whose movement was very serious. His editors responded, "Come on, Dick, it's just a religious movement."
In the fall of 1979, he was promoted, since clearly he had understood something that they had not. Since then, we've seen many more examples. The attack on the
If your assessment that the press doesn't pay enough attention to religion is correct, how do you explain the media's critical portrayal of evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews?
The roots of that go way back [she laughs] - you know, to the Renaissance, the Reformation, the wars of religion, the Enlightenment - and all that's happened since.
Let me explain by way of an example. Following the events of 9/11, British blogger and political commentator Andrew Sullivan published a piece in The New York Times Magazine ["This is a Religious War," October 7, 2001], in which he explained that the problem behind the flying of the planes into the Twin Towers was that the perpetrators were Muslims with an exclusivist, absolutist, fundamentalist view of their religion. And he equated them with fundamentalist Christians and ultra-Orthodox Jews. This has come to be the fear among many in the West: that anybody who believes in one god or absolute truth automatically is a potential murderer. That's not only a misunderstanding of the situation. In fact, it's dead wrong.
On the contrary, people who believe in their religions are often best able to communicate with one another. The only time that line that gets crossed is when a person who believes in absolute truth also believes that his is the absolute truth, and that he is the font of that truth.
Any serious Christian, Jew or, I think, even Muslim knows that he's not God or Allah or Yahweh. Any such person is able to talk to other people of faith and respect them, because they take their faith very seriously. It's not just a political or a social thing for them. It is a matter of the belief about the nature of reality. Most religions also teach that other human beings are therefore to be respected.
Muslims claim that Islam teaches that, as well.
In Islamic history, I think you can find Muslims who have indeed taught that. You can also find those who have not. That's the difference between Islam and other religions - that you can find both strands in it.
Didn't Christianity historically have that "other strand" as well?
Well, certainly not in its founding, or first 300 years. The Crusades are a straw man. You have to know history, which is that by the time the prophet Muhammad died in 632, Islam had already raised armies. Muhammad himself was a rather successful military commander. There's a new book out about this [Muhammad: Islam's First Great General, by Richard A. Gabriel,
The point is that this military strain is old and deep in Islam. Christianity has nothing like that. The Crusades were a response to that. They were too little, too late. And they did some pretty horrible things in
Returning to more current events, in the book, you take issue with the press for ignoring the intelligent design movement. Why?
In a 2005 article in the Columbia Journalism Review ["Undoing Darwin"], authors Chris Mooney and Matthew Nisbet made the argument that the media should not cover the intelligent design movement, because it's not what it says it is.
Now, I don't know how one determines whether something is what it says it is. What I do know is that it's not the business of journalists in a free society. Journalists are supposed to cover what people say, do, think and talk about, and then let the reader decide for himself. So, I found that article disturbing - particularly since it was published in one of the two most important journalism reviews in the
Couldn't one argue that this is more a function of politics than religion? Isn't it true that believers are associated with the Right, and non-believers - as most of the Western media - with the Left? Wouldn't the authors of the article in question also argue that scientists who deny the existence of global warming, for example, should be equally ignored?
Yes, in this respect, a lot of it is political. Here it's important to note that secularism - or the notion that only secular societies can guarantee peoples not being at each other's throats - is, in itself, a kind of religious idea. Nor does it work very well. [Indian prime minister] Indira Gandhi died [in October 1984] for her faith in secularism, in fact. Though she knew her life was threatened, she wouldn't get rid of her Sikh bodyguards, and they killed her.
Indeed, much of religious fundamentalism is a reaction to that very extremist secularism that characterized the late colonial period - around the time of World War I.
In the Muslim world, this took the form of pan-Arab nationalism. It was certainly [Egyptian president] Gamal Abdel Nasser's project. Ultimately, however, it was people's faith, not ethnicity, that connected them.
Speaking of secularism, what about the separation of church and state? Are you saying it doesn't work?
No, but I think the way it's interpreted and implemented today in the
So we don't have to look far for an acknowledgment that there is someone or something beyond us.
That is the Founding Fathers' acknowledgment of the existence of God. You are concerned with the media's not taking such acknowledgment on the part of most of the world seriously enough. Is it really a "blind spot," however? Couldn't it be a more wilful oblivion?
I can't speak for what goes on in their hearts and minds. But judging by their behaviour, reporters have not been willing or able to face the religious motivation behind actions like those of Hamas or Hizbullah. Newsrooms are made up of people who are pretty much secular. So, for them to say something negative about Islam, without saying something equally negative about Christianity and Judaism, goes against their grain. Equally against their grain, apparently, is acknowledging that most of the conflict in the world is about what people believe. It's the refusal to recognize this that is the media's blind spot.
Ulema, Imams to frame response to Jamia Masjid siege
By ARIF SHAFI WANI
Religious leaders in Kashmir term the siege of Jamia Masjid as the worst in history of
Mirwaiz told Greater Kashmir, “On the pretext of facilitating so-called elections the authorities snatched our religious rights. It is sheer interference into our religious affairs. We are not going to remain silent over the serious issue and have called a conference of Ulema, religious scholars and Imams for appropriate action.”
The Chief Mufti of
Mirwaiz said the authorities have the legal and moral responsibility to allow Muslims to perform their religious obligations. “We are not against Hindus, but the state machinery is put at the beck and call of pilgrims during the Amarnath and Vaishno Devi pilgrimages. Muslims only gets batons and bullets. Despite being a Muslim-majority state, the authorities at the behest of
Mirwaiz said it was during the Sikh rule that Kashmiri were not allowed to offer prayers at Jamia Masjid. “
Abuse of religious fervour paves way to doom
By HASSAN ABBAS, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009
The attackers did not hide their faces or blow themselves up with suicide jackets. Anonymity was not their goal. They wanted to be identified as defenders of a cause.
Unless this cause is fully understood, and its roots revealed across the region, this attack may prove to be the beginning of the unmaking of
Regional conflict, involving all of the region's states and increasing numbers of non-state actors, has produced large numbers of trained fighters, waiting for the call to glory. Within both
Much of the current trouble can be traced to
The ills of two decades in South Asia can be attributed to the Afghan jihad years: the rise of the Taliban, the dominance of Pakistani-sponsored religious fanatics within the Kashmir freedom movement, and the eventual spread of sectarian conflict within
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) — Army of the Pure — a Pakistan-based militant outfit supporting insurgency on the Indian side of
LET was the armed wing of an Ahle-Hadith organization, a South Asian version of Saudi-style fundamentalism, whose purpose was to hit Indian forces in
Given its established linkages with
What Pakistan's military strategists failed to realize was that groups like LET and JuD had local agendas as well — converting Pakistan into a theocracy.
Hafiz Saeed, the founder of LET and currently head of JuD, once proudly said: "We believe in the 'Clash of Civilizations,' and our jihad will continue until Islam becomes the dominant religion."
JuD, along with many other like-minded groups, radicalized thousands of young Pakistanis. Through its Web and print publications, it also routinely challenged the teachings of the Sufi mystics who originally brought Islam to
Even while demanding strong action against
Hassan Abbas is a fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Institute for Policy and Understanding. © 2009 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)
Obama’s inheritance of torture
January 15, 2009
The courtrooms of
Is there now one law in
It was during the presidency of Ronald Reagan that the
Still, even the Bush administration has done its bit for some aspects of international law. For years it waged war against the creation of the International Criminal Court, meant to try those charged with crimes against humanity. Most recently it has encouraged the ICC for the first time to prosecute a head of state, the president of
Often overlooked is the fact that during the time of the Bush administration a fourth of all UN Security Council resolutions in its entire history were voted on, and usually passed without dissent.
A test case for the
Maybe part of the answer to this is to bring a domestic court to