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Islamic World News ( 7 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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China cracking down on Muslim minority Uighurs by Ryan Anson

Among Young Muslims, Mixed Emotions on Obama by Paul Vitello,

Washington: What should Muslims do in the brave new world of an Obama Administration?

Jihad against Free Speech by Deborah Weis  

American Muslims Relieved, Hopeful at Obama's Election by Nicole Neroulias

Global Obama inspires the world

American Muslims celebrate Obama's victory by Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Damascus: Syria says Fatah al-Islam group behind bombing

Pitsburgh: Judge nixes part of Muslim scientist's lawsuit by Joe Mandak

Lecture: Islamic civilization explored by Jessica Ravitz

Under siege: Islam, war and the media

Vatican City: Catholics, Muslims vow to fight terrorism and defend faith

Charsadda: JUI (F) protests against Afghan cleric’s detention

Washington: NY Muslim Beaten by Gang Shouting 'Obama'

Beirut: French newspaper L'Express banned in Morocco for insulting Islam

Doha: WTA founder King promotes gender equality in Qatar

Compiled by Syed Asadullah



China cracking down on Muslim minority Uighurs

Ryan Anson, November 7, 2008

China - Following a spate of political violence, security has been so tight around here that a 25-year-old Muslim jade dealer agreed to talk to a reporter only if they met 20 miles outside this historic Silk Road town in remote north-western China.

"I wanted to study teachings like the Hadith," said the man who identified himself only as Hussein, referring to a collection of the prophet Muhammad's sayings. "I'm too old now. It makes me sad."

As children, Hussein and millions of other young Uighurs never attended the religious schools known as madras’s or prayed at mosques because of a government ban on Islamic education for those under 18. Since Hussein never learned about religious laws governing marriage and family, he feels unprepared to have children, and he wonders whether future generations will be able to practice their faith before adulthood.

"Maybe in 10 years, there will be no more religion in Xingjian" (province), said Hussein.

Human rights groups and Uighur exile organizations echo such concern.

Since the end of the Olympic Games in late August, the Chinese government's crackdown on Uighurs with alleged separatist ties in this oil-rich province has escalated, according to Alim Seytoff, general secretary of the Uighur American Association, based in Washington, D.C.

History of tension

Friction between Beijing and China's largest Muslim minority community is hardly new. Uighurs have long chafed at restrictions on Islam, which include studying Arabic only at government schools, banning government workers from practicing Islam and barring imams from teaching religion in private.

But the latest round of unrest is the worst since an uprising in the town of Yining 11 years ago killed scores of people, observers and residents say. Since August, at least 33 people have been killed in a series of attacks and bombings.

On Aug. 4, two Uighur men rammed a truck into a group of Chinese paramilitary officers taking their morning jog through the city of Kashgar. Sixteen of them died in what Chinese authorities called a terrorist attack by Uighur separatists. The New York Times later reported that the attackers wore paramilitary uniforms, casting doubt on the official version.

Six days later, there were several bombings in the city of Kuqa, followed later that month by two stabbing incidents in which several police officers died.

In response - after the Beijing Olympics ended and the world's eyes were no longer upon China - the government deployed soldiers throughout the province, Uighur rights groups say. Security forces made mass arrests of local Muslims and tightened surveillance of religious activities in Xinjiang's southern and central counties, the rights groups say. In some towns, prayer in public places outside the main mosque is forbidden and an imam's sermon is limited to no longer than a half-hour.

Even though no group has claimed responsibility for the violence, Chinese authorities say Islamic separatists are behind it.

The battle against religious extremism is a matter of "life or death," said Wang Lequan, the Communist Party secretary in Xinjiang, in a press statement.

To buttress the point, China President Hu Jintao told fellow leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization at an August summit that members should "deepen cooperation" in their fight against the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.

Searches and restrictions

At most major towns in Xinjiang, soldiers search cars and scan identity cards at checkpoints ringing the perimeters.

Xinjiang's Communist Party officials have also curtailed Islamic dress and diet. During Ramadan, an Islamic celebration that ended in September, local authorities required some Uighur-owned restaurants to remain open during the day, when Muslims normally fast. Government employees have been told to shave their beards, and police have been ordering women to remove their veils.

"It's virtually martial law there," said Seytoff of the Uighur American Association, who calls Xinjiang province East Turkestan, the name the region was known by before being annexed by China in 1949. "East Turkestan is a police state. As long you're a Uighur, you're a criminal suspect in China."

Dilshat Rishit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, estimates that close to 700 people have been detained since August.

"People can be arrested anytime or anywhere without warrants or charges. People are panicking," said Rishit. "These strategies will worsen the conflict between Uighurs and the Beijing government."

Meanwhile, even Chinese Han residents are complaining about the crackdown.

A clothing store owner in Kashgar named Gao says he has lost regular customers from nearby towns because of lengthy security checks.

Another Chinese Han businessman, who manages an import-export company and asked not to be named, said many Chinese residents now view most Uighurs with suspicion.

"There is fear in Kashgar," said the businessman, whose family was among millions of Han immigrants that left poor villages in eastern China for a better life. "But they (the militants) are not qualified to challenge the Chinese government. It's like trying to fight a wall."

Some Uighurs say that even though they worry about security, the growing influence of the Han Chinese over the economy poses a larger threat to their livelihood. A hotel employee in Kashgar named Omar said that most Uighurs experience job discrimination on a regular basis.

"Even if a Uighur knows English, Russian and French, and does a good job, a Chinese will still get the position," he said.

The struggle of the Uighur people

The Uighurs (WEE-gurs), who live in China's western Xinjiang province, are a Sunni Muslim ethnic group related to the Turkic peoples of Central Asia. The Uighurs have long resisted Beijing's efforts to make them adopt Han Chinese ways, as well as its stringent regulation of Islam, which includes barring youths under 18 from entering mosques.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Uighurs fought for and established an independent state they called East Turkestan. Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army took the region by force in 1949.

Although a smattering of loosely organized separatist groups have periodically fought to recreate East Turkestan, most clashes fizzled out in the 1980s after the Chinese government began investing in Xinjiang's economic development. The independent Jamestown Foundation in Washington estimates that Beijing has invested about $88 billion in western provinces, including Xinjiang.

A booming construction industry sparked a huge influx of Han Chinese into Xinjiang ("New Frontier" in Mandarin). Beijing still encourages poor Han Chinese to "go west" with promises of housing, employment and seed money.

Nicholas Bequelin, who monitors the province for Human Rights Watch, says that continued Han migration, rapid economic development and authoritarian rule are a long-term strategy to crush Uighur dissent. Han Chinese now comprise more than half of Xinjiang's population of 20 million people.

"This isn't reactive repression. It's a deliberate policy to control, monitor and sterilize Uighur culture so it can't be a vehicle for autonomy," said Bequelin.

- Ryan Anson Chronicle Foreign Service reporter Ryan Anson visited Xinjiang province in August and September on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. E-mail him at

This article appeared on page A - 16 of the San Francisco Chronicle Source:


Among Young Muslims, Mixed Emotions on Obama

By Paul Vitello, November 7, 2008

It was easy for them to love the candidate. With the same passion, and for the same reasons that millions of other young people did, they loved Barack Obama’s call to activism, the promise of change, the sheer newness of the guy.

What was hard was feeling they could not show it because they were Muslims.

“I pretty much kept away, because I didn’t want to appear with an Obama button and have people look at me and say: ‘Oh, a Muslim girl supports him. Aha,’ ” said Sule Akoglu, a 17-year-old New York University freshman, who wears a head scarf.

Like just about all the Muslim students who gathered Wednesday night at the university’s Islamic Center on the day after the election, Miss Akoglu described a mixture of delight and frustration at the successful campaign of the nation’s first black president-elect.

He had run a great race, broken so many barriers, done so much right. Yet the persistent rumor that Mr. Obama was a Muslim had led his campaign to do things that the students found hurtful, they said. The campaign had dismissed a Muslim staff member for seemingly flimsy reasons. A campaign worker had shuttled two young Muslim women wearing head scarves out of the line of sight of TV cameras at a rally.

And the candidate known for his way with words had never said the words they waited for.

“In my community, people were saying to me, ‘Who do we support?’ ” Said Meherunnisa Jobaida, a journalism student from Queens. “The person who is making the stereotype? Or the person who is not defending us?”

The words defending them were finally spoken instead by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, when he announced his support for Mr. Obama on Oct. 19. Answering a question about the candidate’s faith, Mr. Powell said: “Well, the correct answer is he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?”

The remark struck so profoundly, said the young Muslims at the meeting, that Mr. Obama’s election — in which they thoroughly rejoiced — was like the icing on Mr. Powell’s cake.

Lina Sayed, a Queens native and a recent N.Y.U. graduate now working in finance, said Mr. Powell’s matter-of-fact articulation of an essential American principle lifted a sense of alienation that she had come to accept, and was almost unaware of.

“I forgot about the American dream,” she said. “I forgot that something like this was possible.”

The Islamic Center at N.Y.U. serves about 2,000 students who identify themselves as Muslim, offering activities like skating and bowling, as well as a place for religious instruction, daily prayers and regular meetings like the one on Wednesday night, where students are invited to come and talk.

Though a small sample, the views of the dozen students that night — most of them the American-born children of immigrants from South Asia and the Middle East — generally reflected the results of surveys and recent scholarship.

The Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, for example, recently found overwhelming support for Mr. Obama among the country’s estimated 2 million Muslim voters; and scholars like Jen’nan Ghazal Read, a Duke University sociology professor who studies assimilation patterns among Muslims in the United States, has described the sense of resignation many Muslims felt at how the pejorative use of the word “Muslim” went unchallenged during most of the campaign.

“This is a very sober, mature voting population,” Professor Read said in a telephone conference call with reporters yesterday. “They understand the realities.”

Sufia Ashraf, a freshman pre-med student, voiced that sobriety: While disappointed by Mr. Obama’s failure to speak up for Muslims, she was willing to let it go. “I would rather Barack Obama win,” she said. “If he had said something like what Colin Powell said, he might have lost.”

Imam Khalid Latif, the Muslim chaplain who runs the N.Y.U. center, said that throughout the campaign students were “figuring out what it means to be a Muslim in America,” and that seven years after 9/11, young Muslims are still facing tricky questions in their everyday lives. To wear a full beard, or trim it? Skull cap or baseball cap?

Ms. Sayed, the recent graduate, said two of her brothers who worked in the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania, both of them with “very Muslim names,” decided to do their door-to-door canvassing as “Alex” and “John.”

Among the students, many are children of small-business owners who supported Senator John McCain. Many were schoolchildren on 9/11, taken by surprise by the taunting of their classmates, and even more surprised by the police security that became part of their daily school life for a while.

Miss Akoglu, the young woman who did not want to hurt Mr. Obama’s chances by campaigning for him wearing a head scarf, had made the religious commitment to wear a scarf, in fact, just the week before 9/11, when she was in the sixth grade. Though she received more attention by wearing it, and more grief, she has worn it ever since. (After Mr. Powell’s public remark, Miss Akoglu began wearing her Obama pin just to the side of the scarf. “That’s when I put it on,” she said.)

For all the apparent conditions placed on full participation in the political process, the students said, they were more optimistic about the future the day after the election than the day before.

The election proved that the promise of America is real, that the only barrier to participation is one’s own inertia and that “now is the time for us to step up,” said Haseeb Chowdhry, a senior at the university’s Stern School of Business.

“We love this country. This country has an ability to change — that is its strength,” he said.

The consensus among them about Mr. Obama (only one of those present had supported Mr. McCain) was partly generational, partly identification with anyone saddled with a name like Barack Hussein Obama, and partly a sense of common ground with another child of the world.

“He’s grown up in Indonesia, in Hawaii, in the Midwest,” said Mr. Chowdhry, whose family roots in Pakistan allowed him to grow up in two cultures. “The guy is a cosmopolitan. That’s important for the future. To be able to understand that we are part of the larger world.”

Mr. McCain’s only supporter in the room, Jameel Merali, a junior studying hospitality management, said Mr. Obama’s victory was a wonderful thing, though he still had reservations about his view of economics.

After explaining his understanding of Mr. Obama’s view, and contrasting it with his own — using terms that college students taking economics courses might follow — Mr. Merali concluded that all in all the system of checks and balances would protect the nation against any intemperate economic decisions the next president might consider.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Mr. Merali, who was born in Tanzania. “The way it was all set up by our founding fathers.”



POST OBAMA VICTORY ANALYSIS: What should Muslims do in the brave new world of an Obama Administration?

November 06, 2008

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey, MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

Washington, D.C. (Masnet) – There is, understandably, a huge wave of euphoria sweeping across the nation, and throughout the world, after Barack Obama's historic Nov. 4 victory in the U.S. Presidential Election.

Also notable is the that the 2008 Presidential campaign also makes the history books as one of the longest and most expensive presidential campaigns – pitting a veteran Republican maverick and "war hero" backed by powerful conservative interests against a previously unknown, first-term Senator and African American with Muslim ancestry.

But the more obvious cause for celebration stems from the fact that for the first time in U.S. history an African-American major party candidate was not only nominated, but actually won the election.

The Obama victory, celebrated by virtually all political progressives, comes after eight years of a truculent and increasingly unpopular Bush administration. The victory comes also in the context of a national financial and market crisis, rising unemployment, a ten trillion dollar national debt, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are draining the national treasury.

As the world celebrates with us, we must pause to ask; what does this mean for Muslims in America and what does this new political zeitgeist compel Muslims to do?

I contend, first of all, that Muslims should exhale a collective sigh of relief as the Bush administration fades into history.

Our joy over the election results should be tempered, however, with a critically needed strategy to consolidate and amplify both our political strength and our legitimate presence in civil society.

Not to diminish that the Muslim community has a lot to be happy about. An Obama administration means, first of all, a new Department of Justice, with (hopefully) a great deal more respect for civil rights and greater willingness to enforce the laws that guarantee equal protection.

The Guantanamo prison camp and torture abomination is likely to be dismantled, and it is likely we will see a more progressive policy in the U.S. Department of Justice regarding protection for immigrant rights, especially those of Muslim immigrants and Latinos.

President Obama will also be in a position to appoint federal judges that can counter-act the right-wing stacking of the judiciary under President Bush, and restore some modicum of objectivity and fairness to the courts.

We might also look forward to a potential shift in resources to enhance education, health, and the internal infrastructure with more emphasis on job creation and positive environmental stewardship and conservation compared with the deplorable record of George Bush and Company.

The numbers aren't in yet, but if Virginia is at all typical of trends in our wider community, it's quite likely to be reported that something in the range of an approximate 90% Muslim American vote went for President-Elect Obama.

The number of registered Muslim registered voters in Virginia, for example, exceeded 72,000 persons in the 2008 election. If 80% of this number voted and 90% of those votes went for Obama, then it is likely that Muslim Democratic votes provided a large component of the margin of Democratic victory in the key battleground states.

While Muslims are a relatively small part of the overall electorate, the bloc voting tendency points to the importance of concentrated and mobilized Muslim votes in close elections.

It can also be observed that Muslims leveraged their voting power by forging new and potentially powerful strategic alliances with, for example, Latino communities, labor activists, and African-American civil rights activists.

In the 2008 election campaign, it is clear that the convergence of shared interests within the Muslim community gave birth to larger, progressive collaborations with other political forces to help move the nation beyond the legacy of the Bush administration.

Yet more sobering realities remain.

While the Muslim community voted in large numbers, our impact on a possible shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East leaves something to be desired.

It is no secret that the policy statements from both President-Elect Obama concerning Israel and Palestine – especially Obama's recognition of Jerusalem as the de facto capital of Israel – reinforces the status quo of American regional foreign policy at the expense of a more even-handed and democratic discourse that recognizes not only Israeli security rights, but Palestinian national and human rights as well.

In the course of his marvelous campaign President-Elect Obama made a concerted effort to directly reassure Jewish voters of his sensitivity to their concerns; in comparison, however, Muslims received no such consideration.

There is also the question of challenges to the legitimacy of the American Muslim identity itself.

We remember that Obama campaign staff members removed Muslim women in hijab from a photograph with the candidate – an action that subsequently resulted in a public apology. However, the incident signaled to the Muslim community a "don't-get-too-close-to-Muslims" policy that may carry over into the Obama administration as positions of power are assigned.

Added to these concerns is the ambivalence shown by the Obama campaign on the issue of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President-Elect Obama's endorsement of American military strikes inside Pakistan raises enormous anxiety and concern for Muslim advocates who seek to demilitarize our foreign policy and create non-violent approaches to building new and better relationships with Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other majority-Muslim states on the current American military target list.

However, none of these concerns should dampen our hope and enthusiasm at this moment of monumental political change in America. But the realpolitik of our position requires clear vision, sound policy analysis, and above all, continuous Muslim political mobilization and coalition-building work to assure that a progressive Muslim-American agenda is not subsumed, or even lost, in the mix of regime change in Washington.

So let's congratulate President-Elect Obama for his extraordinary victory, and let's share in the happiness that most of the world is feeling.

But as Muslims, let us also continue to strategize and organize, not only for our own community, but for an even more progressive vision of real peace and a better future for all of America - and all of humanity.  

MAS Freedom (MASF) is a civic and human rights advocacy entity and sister organization of the Muslim American Society (MAS), the largest Muslim, grassroots, charitable, religious, social, cultural, civic and educational organization in America – with 55 chapters in 35 states. Learn more here.

MAS Freedom

1325 G Street NW, Suite 500

Washington DC 20005

Phone: (202) 552-7414

Toll Free: 1-(888)-627-8471

Fax: (703) 642-6191

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Jihad against Free Speech                

By Deborah Weiss, November 06, 2008

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is an Islamist supremacist organization.  Composed of 57 member states with Muslim majority populations, the OIC is the largest Islamic body in the world.  It is also the largest international organization of any kind, second only to the United Nations.  It represents an estimated 1.5 billion Muslims across the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The purpose of the OIC is to promote Islamic values, to revitalize Islam’s pioneering role in the world, to strengthen and enhance the bond of solidarity and unity among Muslim states, to support “the Palestinian struggle” and to defend Islam.  Its charter claims that OIC works to promote peace, tolerance, and fight terrorism.  However, its actions are dissonant with these claims, as it strives to define these words through the extraordinarily skewed views of radical Islam.

Since 1999, the OIC has been pushing incrementally and strategically toward its goal of internationally outlawing all criticism of Islam, Muslims, Muslim theocracies, and Islamic extremism.  Subsequent to September 11, 2001, it professed concern about alleged backlash against Muslims. 

In 2005, the OIC urged the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (“UNCHR”) to pass a resolution called “combating defamation of religions.”  Although the title of the resolution referred to religions generally, the text cited concerns only Islam specifically.  It lamented negativity towards Islam in the media and the use of broadcast, print and the internet to incite violence, discrimination or intolerance towards Islam and other religions.  It revealed alarm over the backlash against Muslims since 9/11, and law enforcement measures that “target Muslims.”  It expressed deep concern over statements which “attack” religions generally, and Islam and Muslims in particular, and concern over the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities.  It alleged that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.  Additionally, it proclaimed that defamation of religions plays a role in the denial of fundamental rights of the target groups.

The Commission urged resolute action to prohibit “racist, and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers… and to protect against acts of discrimination, intimidation, hatred, and defamation of religion.”  It called on the international community to begin a “global dialogue” on religious diversity and to combat defamation of religions.  It further required the Special Rapporteur to report on the discrimination faced by Muslims and Arabs.  Not surprisingly, the countries that voted in favor of the resolution included many Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Sudan, among others.  Freer nations such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Japan, all voted in opposition to the resolution.

The OIC’s insistence on prohibiting defamatory speech against Islamic countries was without reciprocity.  No effort to silence anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli speech has been made.  At an OIC Special Session in 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad freely expressed his goal to eliminate the “Zionist regime.”  Indeed, the OIC backs Iran’s nuclear program, supports Hamas, and rationalizes 9/11.  Moreover, the OIC insists that the definition of terrorism should exclude the killing of innocent civilians where there is a “legitimate resistance to foreign occupation,” i.e. Israel.  It is for this reason that the UN has been unable to pass a comprehensive convention against international terrorism.

At the OIC’s 2006 summit in Mecca, it adopted a zero tolerance policy regarding insults to Islam, going so far as to include “hostile glances” in its definition of Islamophic behavior.  The immediate goal of the summit was to obtain “protection” for Islam in European parliaments and the UN including the Human Rights Council (which replaced the Human Rights Commission with the failed hope of becoming an effective advocate for human rights).  It also proposed the creation of an “Islamic Council of Human Rights” and a “Charter of Human Rights in Islam.”  Both would be based on Sharia law and run contrary to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 2007, the Secretary General of the OIC, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a “moderate” Muslim from Turkey, used the “International Day of Tolerance” to assert that freedom of speech is defiling Islam.  He stated, “[M]uslims around the world are the first victims of intolerance.  They are facing a campaign of hatred and prejudice, what is otherwise known as Islamophobia.  This growing trend of Islamophobia has subjected them to discrimination including religious profiling and stereotyping.  The right to freedom of speech is being used to defile the sacred symbols of Islam.”

He continued, “[I]t is high time that the international community considers enacting legal measures against defamation of religions and religious beliefs.  I would urge the Alliance of Civilizations and the Human Rights Council to take pro-active action in this regard.”

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (“IHEU”) warned that UN approval of a law combating defamation of religions would have grave implications for the freedom to criticize a religion or its practices.  It explained that countries will have broad latitude in how they penalize the disrespect of religion because OIC’s resolution did not define what constitutes “defamation.”  Further, the resolution failed to distinguish between defamation of religion and incitement to racial and religious violence.

In March 2008, the OIC held a two-day summit in Senegal, where it produced a battle plan to combat Islamophobia.  It would defend itself against all forms of free expression that could be interpreted as criticism of Islam, including that of cartoonists, film producers, reporters, politicians or governments.  Countries that already regularly deny religious freedom and freedom of speech to their own citizens, demanded legal measures to have their oppressive rules be imposed internationally.  “I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy” explained Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s President, and Chairman of the OIC.  “There can be no freedom without limits.”  To support his argument, some OIC delegates pointed to European laws that criminalize holocaust denial and anti-Semitic rhetoric, as well as to UN charters that condemn discrimination based on religion.  As a result of this summit, the UNHRC passed the resolution.

Instead of fighting terrorism to make obvious that Islam and terrorism need not be affiliated, the OIC unveiled at its summit, the first report on Islamophobia.  It consisted of 58 pages of real, perceived, and alleged claims of Islamophobia.  Under “negative incidents,” it cited numerous occurrences of Muslims threatening or committing violence against non-Muslims in response to factual reports on Muslim behavior.  Negative reports about Muslims, even if true, resulted in claims of Islamaphobia.

Some of the incidents reported as Islamophobic included:  Wikipedia’s refusal to cave into Muslims’ demand to remove all depictions of the Prophet from its English language website;  a report accurately stating Muslims were outraged by the opening of the first church in Qatar and insisting that Qatar is a Muslim country where others have no right to build a place of worship;  the fact that Florida Attorney General (and former Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime in Congress) showed the movie “Obsession” to his staff;  and the fact that the European Union requested Iran to drop the death penalty in its penal code for the crimes of apostasy, heresy, and witchcraft.  Reports of threats made to Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, producer of the documentary “Fitna,” were also deemed Islamophobic.

Finally, the bulletin suggested that Islamophobia poses a threat to global peace and security.  It proposed the use of legal instruments to prohibit Islamophobic speech, urged monitoring and compiling lists of Islamophobic incidents, and encouraged the persuading of others to believe that Islam is a moderate, peaceful and tolerant religion.

In June of 2008, the OIC reported on the 2007 opening of its Washington, DC office which works to engage OIC politically.  Karen Hughes, then-undersecretary of public diplomacy at the State Department, spoke at the opening ceremony.  She lauded OIC’s effort to pass the resolution on combating defamation of religions.  She also advocated a program called “citizen dialogue” which she started in order to address Muslims’ sense of isolation.  However, Muslims abroad indicated that they were not interested in meeting with U.S. government officials or non-Muslim Americans, so she sent Muslim-Americans as envoys to foreign countries for the so-called dialogue.

The OIC also boasted about the inroads it has made at the UN.  It pledged to place Islamophobia at the forefront of its next summit in April 2009.

Additionally, a rule has been implemented at the UNHRC, requiring that all speaker presentations and discussions omit any “judgment or evaluation about religion.”  The word “sharia” does not have to be expressly stated to violate this rule.  All discussions must avoid making any mention of controversial fatwas (religious rulings) or human rights abuses that are implemented as part of Sharia or in Islamic countries.  This includes, for example, protests against the forced marriages of young girls.

The OIC construes the word Islamophobia very broadly, using it to include news reports, observations, and accurate accounts of violence or intolerance on the part of Muslims or Islamic theocracies.  In effect, the OIC is requesting a legal exemption from free speech rights of any criticism of the effects of an extremist interpretation of Islam.  Any individual, group, or government acting in the name of Islam would be entirely off limits for open debate or discussion.

The obvious result of OIC’s push to internationally outlaw defamation of Islam, would be not only to stifle free speech and freedom of religion, but to devastate efforts to fight human rights abuses and to counter terrorism.  Fighting for human rights in Islamic countries might be deemed Islamophobic even if it pertains to the human rights of Muslims.

Therefore, OIC’s comment that Islamophobia jeopardizes global peace and security was not an expression of fear of Islamophobia.  Rather, it was a warning that anyone who claims Islam is not a religion of peace might have violence perpetrated against him.  Its simultaneous propaganda campaign to convince people that Islam is a “moderate, peaceful, and tolerant religion” demonstrates that its words and actions are at odds with each other.

It’s ironic that countries which follow an interpretation of Islam that disallows religious freedom or freedom of speech at home, are utilizing these very freedoms abroad to achieve their Islamist goals.  By turning the definition of freedom on its head, free speech and religious freedom for non-Muslims can now be condemned as anti-Islamic.

Claiming victimhood can score big political points in a free and compassionate society.  If the OIC can convince people that those who stone women, behead apostates, sexually abuse minors, fly planes into buildings, and blow up subway systems are really the victims of evil, rather than the perpetrators, then the OIC’s proposed restrictions on free speech will accomplish more damage throughout the west than 9/11 ever could.

It is important to understand that only individuals should be afforded rights.  Ideas, thoughts and religions should not be protected from criticism.  There is no such thing as defamation of religion.  To the degree that it is concocted, the rights of ideas and religions will stand in direct opposition to the rights and freedoms of humans.  The right of free speech is, in part, designed to offend others.  The Founding Fathers of the United States Constitution erected the First Amendment for the purpose of fostering cantankerous political speech.  They believed that the way to counter offensive speech and bad ideas is to engage in more speech, espousing good ideas.  In this case, however, it is the OIC that clearly has the bad ideas, and not the alleged defamers.  Perhaps the reason the OIC seeks to prohibit free speech rather than to rebut it, is because it too knows that free speech works.



American Muslims Relieved, Hopeful at Obama's Election

By Nicole Neroulias, November 6, 2008

After months of balancing their support for the presidential candidate with concerns that their allegiance could do more harm than good, millions of relieved American Muslims cheered the election of the son of a Muslim immigrant whose middle name is Hussein.

Record numbers of U.S. Muslims had cast their votes, boosted by registration drives held by the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, which targeted swing-state residents. MAS Freedom estimates that about 70,000 Muslims voted in Virginia, a state that had not backed a Democratic president in more than 40 years, and which Barack Obama won by fewer than 160,000 votes.

"We used Friday prayer, religious holidays, gatherings and conventions to register Muslims," said Imam Mahdi Bray, MAS Freedom executive director. "In Virginia (on Election Day), we had 30 taxi drivers who did nothing but take people to the polls all day."

The Muslim community has mobilized greatly since 2000, when most of its voters -- with the exception of African American Muslims -- had supported George W. Bush. Ultimately dismayed by the president's post-9/11 policies, they began swinging Democratic in 2004, a shift that MAS Freedom was able to build on for Obama, Bray added.

Early estimates indicate that between 70 and 90 percent of Muslim voters supported Obama this year; official numbers won't be ready until January or February, said Ahmed Younis, an analyst with the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.

Throughout the party primaries and the general election, Muslims had to temper their political activism against a smear campaign calling Obama a "secret Muslim," based on his father's Kenyan roots. These efforts ultimately backfired; Jen'nan Read, a Duke University sociology professor, said the rumours helped galvanize Muslims and other offended Americans to fight back.

But some Muslims were more frustrated that Obama's campaign, which responded to the accusations by highlighting the candidate's Christian faith, did not also state that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim American -- an anti-Islamophobia point finally made in Gen. Colin Powell's mid-October endorsement.

They also complained when Obama volunteers moved two headscarf-wearing Muslim women out of a background shot at a Detroit rally last summer, prompting the campaign to apologize.

"They were disappointed," Read said. "But they were also disappointed by the past eight years of George Bush, and more disappointed in that than in (Obama's) campaign strategy."

Rumors of Obama's Muslim ties, and the possible implications for U.S.-Israel relations, also fuelled an unusually tough battle for the Jewish vote. But ultimately, about 78 percent of Jews supported Obama -- slightly higher than their 2004 votes for John Kerry, although the Republican Jewish Coalition noted that this did not reach their support for either Bill Clinton or Al Gore.

Despite the loss, Matt Brooks, RJC executive director, said he would not have changed controversial RJC ads calling Obama "dangerous" to Jews and Israel, and strongly implying the candidate had pro-Muslim, anti-Semitic tendencies.

"We raised important issues," he said. "Everything we talked about was legitimate, and I think it was important to have that conversation in the Jewish community."

But Jews, Muslims, and America's other minorities seem to have found a unifying figure in Obama, Younis said. His presidency could be "a magic spear in the heart of clash of civilizations theory," especially considering his own experiences struggling with prejudice and different cultural viewpoints.

"There is a great relief today," he said, though he added that American Muslims "do not expect for Barack Obama to have a magic wand to alleviate all the discrimination."

In terms of immediate goals for the next White House resident, the Muslim community now wants to see Obama fulfill his promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, and to take a more balanced approach when dealing with turmoil in Pakistan and the Middle East, said Mukit Hossain, executive director of the Muslim American Political Action Committee.

At the grassroots level, Muslim political activists plan to continue building on their victory and strengthening ties with other groups who organized with them behind Obama.

"We had good coordination with the Latino community in Virginia, and some of the labor justice community, with immigrants," Bray said.

"There's an emerging coalition within the Muslim community that will have significant impact in the years to come."

Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



Global Obama inspires the world

By Joseph Murimi and Reuters

Brazilians of mixed descent say he looks like them and called him Mulato.

Japanese have a city called Obama and for that they rallied behind him although his win may not benefit them directly.

Americans own him because his mother, Ann Dunhum, was a white American from Kansas.

His maternal lineage has been traced to Great Britain, specifically Scotland, making Europeans also stake a claim on US President-elect Barack Obama.

A genealogist disclosed, last year, that Obama was a descendant of the monarch who ruled Scotland from 1165 to 1214.

Muslims claim he is one of them, but Obama maintains he is a Christian.

A leading television channel in the Middle East kept announcing that Obama’s grandmother and most of his family members in Kenya were Muslims. His late maternal grandmother and half sister live in Hawaii.

Biggest claim

However, it is Kenyans who have laid the biggest and most elaborate claim to the first black US President.

His father Barack Obama Snr was born in Kogelo, Siaya District, and Nyanza Province.

His late father’s community say Obama is a Luo by blood and therefore, their son.

For that they broke into wild celebrations when he was declared President-elect of the most powerful nation.


President Kibaki declared yesterday a public holiday to allow Kenyans celebrate the historic achievements of their "son".

He addressed the nation live on national television exalting the virtues of Obama and not forgetting to say he had "Kenyan roots’’.

Early this year, Prime Minister Raila Odinga claimed Obama ‘was’ his cousin, according to Luo traditions.

From Africa, Asia, America to Europe to the Muslims and Christians, everybody claims a piece of Obama.

The US President-elect connects with the whole world and can be referred to as the global President.

Like Americans are wont to say, everybody wanted a piece of the Obama pie.

Led in polls

Every opinion poll from the leading pollsters Gallup to Cable News Network, indicated Obama was leading his Republican rival John McCain. And when the final results began trickling in showing Obama in the lead, the world broke into celebrations.

With a global appeal, cutting across religious and racial biases, Obama was tipped for a landslide win Meanwhile, Japan’s opposition hopes it can emulate US President-elect Barack Obama’s victory with his promise of change. Many Japanese voters, however, doubt their politicians have what it takes. Polls show many are weary of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, in power for the past 53 years.

Huge task

But the opposition Democrats, who share a name with Obama’s party, face an uphill battle to prove they can do a better job

"Japan doesn’t have young and charismatic politicians like Obama who are calling for reform," said 38-year-old Keishi Matsuoka.

Flagging support for Prime Minister Taro Aso and the LDP has not translated into a boost for the Democrats.

"If we had an election, I think most Japanese would be in a quandary," Matsuoka said.



American Muslims celebrate Obama's victory

Nov 06, 2008

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

A New York African-American Muslim teenager says he was beaten on election night by four white men furious that Barak Obama was elected as the nation's next President. The incident best symbolizes the dilemma of seven-million strong American Muslim communities that apparently voted en masse for Obama with a conviction that the impending change would fully restore their civil rights which were abridged during the Bush administration in the name of "fighting terrorism."

American Muslims, who remained an outcast during the election campaign, were inspired and encouraged by Obama's message of inclusion. On November 4 night, Muslims joined millions of people at home and abroad in celebrating his historic victory as the 44th President of the United States.  

Not surprisingly, African Americans see the victory as a "realization of Martin Luther King's dream." Obama even won Virginia, a state where Charles Lynch and William Lynch formalized extrajudicial murders of black slaves and poor whites in the 18th and 19th centuries, later known as lynching. 

He proved wrong those who said that white Americans will never vote for a black man. Tellingly, he received much support from America's white majority in his effort to be the first black occupant of the White House, with four in 10 whites voting for him. Like other ethnic and religious communities, the American Muslim community was proud that a record number of Muslim American voters went to the polls to cast their vote and fully participated in the national political process. To borrow Tahir Ali, author of the book The Muslim Vote Counts, the seven million American Muslims--with an estimated 4.9 million of them registered to vote--represent a potent political force. 

Major American Muslim organizations have welcomed the historic election of Barak Obama with great enthusiasm and fervour.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) described Obama's landslide victory as a watershed moment for the American nation. Communications Director Laila Al-Qatami said, "ADC looks forward to working with the new Administration to overcome the challenges facing our nation."

American Muslim Voice while welcoming Obama's victory pointed out as a nation we have finally been able to cross the ultimate color line and make history. "Choosing the first African American in the nation's highest office sends a strong message to the world that America is ready to create that inclusive beloved community Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of," said Samina Faheem Sundas, the Founding Executive Director of AMV.  

The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Election said: "Today, as a nation we have given substance to the Declaration of Independence, especially its foundational principle that all men are created equal. Our nation has thus risen to new majestic heights." 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Obama's victory sends the unmistakable message that America is a nation that offers equal opportunity to people of all backgrounds. CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said : "We look forward to having the opportunity to work with the Obama administration in protecting the civil rights of all Americans, projecting an accurate image of America in the Muslim world and playing a positive role in securing our nation."

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) said Obama's victory has raised the height of America as a nation and has sent an unmistakable message to the world about the power of American democracy as well.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) said: "Barack Obama's victory is perhaps greater in that it finally allows America to practice what it for so long has preached to others. It allows America to close the gap that separated its humanitarian ideals from its social ambitions.  America has for now, at least, lived up to its promise." 

The Muslim American Society described Obama's victory as a historical moment for "our nation that is rooted in the epic struggle for freedom and justice." MAS Freedom Executive Director, Mahdi Bray said: "When I consider that in Virginia during the 50's my grandparents home was torched by a racist mob because they registered African American's to vote, this moment is not only historical but deeply personal and moving."

The Muslim Public Affairs Council described Obama's victory as an important and emotional moment in the history of the American nation.

The MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati said: "We are proud to live in a place where, as President Obama said tonight, "'all things are possible.' The enormity of these challenges is a shared responsibility of all Americans and we hope that we can work together to face the challenges."

American Muslims see Barack Obama's overwhelming victory as a sign that after eight years of the politics of bigotry, fear and senseless intolerance the American people have finally awoken from their fear-induced coma. However, election night attack on an African-American Muslim remained a cause of concern as the general level of anti-Muslim bias has been increased by the Islamophobia during the 2008 election campaign climaxed by the distribution of the anti-Muslim film "Obsession" to 28 million households in presidential election swing states nationwide.

Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 American. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American Muslim Perspective:



Syria says Fatah al-Islam group behind bombing

Nov 6, 2008

Damascus (Reuters) - Syria said on Thursday that an Islamist militant group active in neighbouring Lebanon was behind a suicide car bomb attack that killed 17 people in Damascus in September.

State television showed what it said were 12 members of Fatah al-Islam, an al Qaeda-inspired group that first emerged in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, confessing that they had helped plan the September 27 attack on an intelligence complex in the Syrian capital.

Abdel Baqi Hussein, a Syrian who identified himself as the security coordinator of Fatah al-Islam, said the explosives had been smuggled from Lebanon and that the suicide bomber was a Saudi national called Abu Aisha.

He said he had discussed logistics with several Fatah al-Islam members in Lebanon beforehand, and that the car used in the bombing was an Iraqi-registered taxi that had operated on the Damascus-Baghdad route.

"The objective was to rattle the Syrian regime," Hussein said.

Syrian officials have warned of what they termed a terrorist threat from Lebanon, and linked the September 27 bombing to attacks on the Lebanese army that killed 22 people in August and September.

The 12 people shown on state television were mostly Syrians and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon or Syria. There was one Yemeni national and a woman described as the daughter of Fatah al-Islam's leader Shaker al-Absi, who is at large.

Syria says Fatah al-Islam has spread to take in members and sympathizers across the Arab world.

Lebanese public prosecutor Said Mirza last month accused 34 men including Syrians, Saudis, Lebanese and Palestinians of belonging to the Fatah al-Islam cell that was behind the attacks on the army.

Mirza said the men, eight of whom were at large, sympathized with Fatah al-Islam, which fought the Lebanese army for 15 weeks at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon last year.

At least 430 people were killed in the fighting, including 170 soldiers and 220 militants. Several Lebanese politicians at the time accused Syria of backing Fatah al-Islam.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved



Judge nixes part of Pa. Muslim scientist's lawsuit

By Joe Mandak

Pittsburgh - A federal judge said he doesn't have jurisdiction to decide if a Muslim scientist was wrongly denied a security clearance, but is still considering whether the scientist's due process rights were violated.

The American Civil Liberties Union, suing on behalf of Abdel Moniem El-Ganayni, says the government is hiding behind a claim of "national security" to keep from disclosing why El-Ganayni lost his security clearance in December.

The ACLU contends El-Ganayni was wrongly fired from his job in May at a nuclear warship parts plant because he spoke out against U.S. foreign policy and the alleged mistreatment of Muslims by the FBI.

In a 21-page opinion last Friday, U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry agreed with the government that he can't revisit the decision to deny El-Ganayni's security clearance without also second-guessing the U.S. Department of Energy's reasons for that decision. And the judge said he doesn't have the jurisdiction to do that.

But McVerry left open the possibility that the Energy Department violated its own procedures.

The judge wants attorneys for both sides to file written arguments by Nov. 14 before he decides whether Energy officials correctly interpreted an executive order that enables them to bypass a hearing if the Energy Secretary determines national security is an issue. Among other issues, the judge will determine whether Deputy Energy Secretary Jeffrey Kupfer, who personally reviewed El-Ganayni's case, had the authority to do so.

The Egyptian-born scientist has been a U.S. citizen for 20 years, and was fired from Bettis Laboratory near Pittsburgh, where he had worked for more than 17 years.

According to El-Ganayni's lawsuit, Energy Department officials and the FBI questioned him about speeches he made, his views on suicide bombings and the Quran, and a conflict he had with the Pennsylvania prison system, where he has ministered to Muslim prisoners.

El-Ganayni and his attorneys said he was never told specifically what information led him to lose his security clearance and job.

His attorneys don't expect El-Ganayni will get his job back. But they want the judge to order the Energy Department to give him a review hearing so he might gain information to help him prove he was discriminated against.



Lecture: Islamic civilization explored

By Jessica Ravitz, Nov 06, 2008

Sabiha Al Khemir, a Tunisia-born Islamic art historian, author and illustrator, is swinging through Utah this week to give a lecture at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art and share a reading in Salt Lake City from her most recent novel.

Al Khemir, who currently lives in London, has taught at the British Museum, consulted for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and was the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, which recently supplied pieces for a special exhibition -- curated by Al Khemir -- at the Louvre in Paris. She will speak Tuesday on the nature of Islamic art and how it, over time, geography and medium, reflects cohesion of Islamic civilization.

"It's an interesting way to understand a culture and a reiligon that we're not too familiar with by looking at it through its art," Christopher Wilson, spokesman for BYU's museum, said. The artwork, which spans diverse lands such as Spain and Indonesia, speaks to the "level of artistic achievement these cultures achieved" and allows people to look at and learn about Islam in new ways.

Al Khemir's lecture, Wilson added, is a first step in what he hopes will be a growing relationship with the scholar. She's worked with filmmaker Sterling Van Wagenen on a couple of documentaries, and it was through him that the museum met her, Wilson explained. The museum is now trying to secure grant dollars to fund, likely in 2011, an Islamic art exhibition of its own, with Al


Khemir steering the effort

Al Kehmir herself could not be reached for comment before The Salt Lake Tribune went to press.

In addition to her lecture in Provo, Al Khemir will appear on Wednesday at Salt Lake City's Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore, where she'll read from her novel The Blue Manuscript, which will be released this month. The novel weaves the human emotions of hope, love, fear and greed with the relationships between Islam and the West as well as Islam in the past and the present.



Under siege: Islam, war and the media

Nov 06, 2008

We are living in dramatic times.

The first black president of the United States has raised expectations of genuine change. Yet the "war on terror", now in its eighth year, continues to be waged in the name of the same free-market ideas that lie behind the current economic crisis.

In Iraq, bloodshed, fear and a shocking standard of living remain the norm for most civilians, but too often the situation is spun as a "good news story" for Western audiences. In Afghanistan the commander of British troops, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, has said: "We’re not going to win this war".

In the last 6 months Carleton-Smith has lost 32 soldiers and had 170 more injured. The US and European governments are seeking to create a "coalition of the willing" that would bypass the United Nations and impose sanctions on Iran – while a military attack remains on the agenda.

Meanwhile a proxy war is currently going on, largely unreported, in Somalia. The war continues to have a damaging effect on the mainstream British media:

 Journalists struggle to access and convey genuine information from Afghanistan and Iraq owing to strict military control and censorship;

 At home, the war has led to vilification of Islam and scapegoating of Muslims. Journalists who investigate extremism have been targeted by the courts, while the police have used "terror" laws to harass photographers;

 Without critical media we can stumble blindly into new wars, such as that in the Caucasus in August;

 Iran is routinely demonised, while war is already spreading – almost unmentioned – into nuclear-armed Pakistan.

This conference comes at a crucial time – never has the need to keep an open mind and an open media been greater.

Contributors are from across the political spectrum and include:

 Peter Oborne, Daily Mail columnist and author of "Muslims Under Siege: Alienating Vulnerable Communities". As Peter has said, "We should all feel a little bit ashamed about the way we treat Muslims in the media, we misrepresent and in certain cases persecute them. We do not treat Muslims with the tolerance, decency and fairness that we so often like to boast is the British way."

 Louise Christian, campaigning solicitor who has acted tirelessly for families prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain and ENGAGE

 Eamonn McCann, leading Irish journalist for many years, and one of the Raytheon 9 activists who "decommissioned" the offices of military suppliers Raytheon in Derry in 2006

 Moazzem Begg, former Guantanamo inmate and author of "Enemy Combatant"

 Nick Davies, investigative journalist and author of this year’s must-read book on the media, "Flat Earth News"

 Jeremy Dear, general secretary, NUJ

 Lyndsey German, national convenor, Stop the War Coalition

The event is hosted by Media Workers Against War, a group of concerned journalists and media staff who campaign against the "war on terror" and against the racism directed against Muslims in consequence of the war. Set up by campaigning journalists John Pilger and Paul Foot in 1990 to campaign against the first Gulf War, Media Workers Against the War believes British and US troops are making the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan worse and should leave immediately.

MWAW seeks to:

 Persuade all sections of the media to report the war fairly through critical, informed questioning and investigation of politicians and the military;

 Ensure that broadcasters follow the terms of their charters on impartiality and context;

 Urge print editors and broadcasters to follow the ethical principles of journalism, as laid down by professional bodies such as the NUJ and BECTU, in war coverage;

 Investigate and publicise biased, incomplete or distorted coverage of the "war on terror", incitement to racial or religious hatred in the media;

 Urge the public to bring the media to account, pressure it to tell the truth and resist political interference, whether in the form of direct government pressure, official regulation or commercial and business interests.



Catholics, Muslims vow to fight terrorism and defend faith

Tom Heneghan, November 06, 2008

Vatican City (Reuters) - Catholic and Muslim leaders at unprecedented Vatican meetings vowed on Thursday to jointly combat violence committed in God's name, to defend religious freedom and to foster equal rights for minority faith groups.

After three days of meetings, the 58 scholars and leaders - 29 from each faith - issued a joint declaration that also appealed for respect for religious figures and symbols.

The meetings came two years after the pope gave a speech hinting Islam was violent and irrational, sparking angry protests in the Middle East. The Muslim participants formed a group to challenge that and seek better mutual understanding.

The joint manifesto, A Common Word, called for dialogue based on shared principles of love of God and neighbour.

"We profess that Catholics and Muslims are called to be instruments of love and harmony among believers, and for humanity as a whole, renouncing any oppression, aggressive violence and terrorism especially that committed in the name of religion and upholding the principle of justice for all," said the statement describing the talks as "warm and convivial".

Religious minorities were "entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subjected to any form of mockery or ridicule", it said.

The Vatican has long defended minority Christians in places such as Saudi Arabia, where they cannot worship publicly, and urged safety for Iraqi Christians. Muslims in western countries say they face discrimination and suspicion by the majority.

The declaration's words about avoiding mockery or ridicule reflected continued Muslim concern about the 2005 publication in a Danish newspaper of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad that sparked violent protests in the Islamic world.


Earlier in the day, Pope Benedict received the delegations at the Vatican and said the faiths should cooperate much more.

"There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage," the German-born pope said.

"Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations," he added.

The Abu Dhabi-based Bishop of Arabia Paul Hinder said he discussed with Muslim delegates the Vatican wish's to build churches in Saudi Arabia for Catholic migrant workers there.

"I don't think we'll get any right away, but things are changing," he told journalists.

The Vatican has also participated in interfaith talks launched this year by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, who will meet at the United Nations in New York next week with other heads of state to further promote his initiative.

These and other dialogues reflect a new urgency Muslim leaders have felt after the Sept. 11 attacks, the "clash of civilisations" theory and the pope's 2006 speech in Regensburg showed a widening gap between the world's two largest faiths.

Benedict said the Catholic-Muslim Forum, the official name for this dialogue now set to take place every two years, was "now confidently taking its first steps".

The Catholic delegation included Vatican officials, Catholic scholars of Islam and bishops leading minority communities in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Three were women.

The Common Word group, an independent union of Islamic thinkers from across the Muslim word, sent Sunni and Shi'ite religious leaders and scholars from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and western countries, including two women.

Ingrid Mattson, a convert who heads the largest Muslim organisation in North America, said the Common Word represented "the broad mainstream of the Muslim world ... Those who oppose us, their voices will become increasingly marginalised."



JUI (F) protests against Afghan cleric’s detention

Charsadda: Jamiat Ulema-E-Islam (F) has observed a protest against the detaining of Afghan clerics in Charsadda; the protestors blocked all the roads of Charsada for any kind of traffic.

According to details, JUI (F) protested against the detaining of Afghan Ulema in Charsada and blocked all the roads for any type of traffic. Addressing to the protestors, ex MNA Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq, Ameer of JUI and ex MNA Maulana Syed Gohar Shah, Maulana Jamil Ahmed and other speakers claimed that ANP government had been sold Pakhtoon nation to America and its allies.

They said that to please America, the government arrested the religious scholars from Bajaur, Swat, Waziristan and other tribal areas and afterwards started operation and shelling.

The orators claimed that ANP government has failed and now it was spreading anarchy in Charsadda district.

The speakers demanded the ANP government to resign instantly and all the arrested scholars should be released soon otherwise ANP and district government would be responsible for the law and order situation.



CAIR: NY Muslim Beaten by Gang Shouting 'Obama'

Nov. 6, 2008

Washington - Islamic civil rights group asks FBI to probe assault as hate crime

A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on the FBI to launch a hate crime investigation into an Election Night assault on a New York Muslim by a gang allegedly angry that Barack Obama was elected president.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said media reports indicate that four "white men" beat a Muslim of Liberian heritage as he was walking near his Staten Island home. The victim said the alleged attackers jumped from a car and attacked him after shouting "Obama." Local law enforcement authorities are investigating the attack as a hate crime.

SEE: Gang Angry at Barack Obama Win Beat Me, Says Staten Island Teen (NY Daily News) Source:

"This incident should be of great concern to all Americans, not only because of the apparent bias motive, but because of its possible negative impact on equal participation in the political process," said Aliya Latif, civil rights director of CAIR's New York chapter.

Earlier this week, CAIR called on the FBI and local police to investigate a paintball attack on a Maryland mosque as a possible hate crime. Other acts of vandalism have targeted Muslim individuals and Islamic institutions in Illinois, Nebraska and nationwide.

Last month, a North Carolina man was sentenced to 45 days in federal prison for e-mailing a death threat to CAIR and a Hispanic group.

SEE: Hispanic Activists Cite an Uptick in Threats of Violence (Washington Post)


Law enforcement authorities in California are investigating a recent death threat against a Muslim candidate for the Irvine City Council. In April, CAIR sought hate crime charges against the alleged perpetrator of a March "Molotov cocktail" attack on a Kansas Muslim. That same month, CAIR's Minnesota chapter asked the FBI to investigate reported threats against the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy charter school in that state as possible hate crimes.

The Kansas assault and the threats to the Minnesota school came following other incidents such as a fire-bomb attack on a Minnesota Muslim-owned business and an arson attack on a Tennessee mosque by three members of the white-supremacist "Christian Identity" movement.

CAIR is concerned that the general level of anti-Muslim bias has been increased by the distribution of the anti-Muslim film "Obsession" to 28 million households in presidential election swing states nationwide.

SEE: Group Swamps Swing States with Movie on Radical Islam (Washington Post)


SEE ALSO: Obsession with Hate


The Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group is urging Muslims nationwide to review security procedures using advice contained in its "Muslim Community Safety Kit."

SEE: CAIR Muslim Community Safety Kit


In September, CAIR released its annual report on the status of American Muslim civil rights. That report, called "Without Fear of Discrimination," outlined 2,652 incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in 2007.

To view the entire report, go to:

CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

CONTACT: CAIR-NY Community Affairs Director Faiza N. Ali, 212-870-2002, E-Mail:; CAIR-NY Civil Rights Director Aliya Latif, 212-870-2002, 732-429-4268, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail:

Source: Council on American-Islamic Relations



French newspaper L'Express banned in Morocco for insulting Islam

The international version of the French paper, Daily L’Express, was recently banned in Morocco, due to a set of articles that were “disrespectful to Islam,” according to Morocco’s communication ministry.

Beirut - The Moroccan Ministry of Communication banned the entry of the international-edition of the French daily L’Express to Morocco on October 31 because of a report that was published in its October 30 issue.

One of the articles was titled "Jesus, the rebel message," and another “Mohammad, prophet and warrior”, to establish the differences between Islam and Christianity.

Managing editor Christian Makarian said he didn't understand this reaction because the articles deal about the conflicting relation Islam can have with other religions, but never contained any defaming or offensive sentences.

Moroccan wisdom

The Moroccan Ministry of Communication simply banned the publishing of this newspaper, declaring that the report is “an insult to Islam”, based on article 29 of the Moroccan Press Code, which permits the ban of newspapers “when they insult Islam, the royal regime, the territorial integrity, the respect to the King and the public order.”

Magazine staff are surprised and don’t seem to understand why they are being blamed.

Preemptive measures were taken: in order to respect the Moroccan sensibilities, the face of Mohammad was veiled, in conformity with Islam to not show the face of the Prophet.

No precise article was mentioned, which means the whole report is suspected.

However, the report doesn’t bring any new information. The articles were inspired by Christian Makarian’s book, the confrontation: Jesus-Mohammad, with the sub-title, Jesus and Mohammad don’t speak of the same God.

According to the site algerie-dz, the part entitled, Mohammad, prophet or warrior, was the reason behind the ban, which would be a paradox, knowing that the Sira as well as the Quran described the warrior activities of Mohammad, even mentioning how he distributed his loot.

The document, going back to the Quran, also reminds that the Holy book mentioned that the “previous ones”, the Thora as well as the Gospels, were falsified, and that the Christians will add Mary to the Trinity.

Hence, the comparison between the Bible and the Quran, is difficult, with the ill-established bases.

“In respect to the religious sensitivity of our Moroccan readers,” adds Makarian, we took care to conceive a cover especially dedicated to the international edition, with the face of Mohammad being veiled, in conformity to Islam’s customs.

The image used is issued from an ottoman manuscript of the XVI century and was not modified. Despite this special attention that shows our respect to the Moroccan public and Islam, we were banned. I don’t understand.”

Limited discussion

On the website of l’Express, the commentaries were closed because many Internet users refused to discuss others’ religions.

“We remind you that there must be respectful debate and according to the law, we refuse any abusive, defaming or xenophobic comments. These comments also lead to legal suits against their writers. The usage of a pseudonym does not prevent your identification.”


According to the daily, this report was written after a meeting of around 50 catholic and Muslim dignitaries, on November 4th in Rome, to “help the dialogue between Islam and Christianity.”

Once a month for the last two years, L’Express has been the only French daily to publish a supplement Express Maroc, an eight page section entirely dedicated to news and reports of interest to the Moroccan people.

Bans from all sectors

Reporters without Borders denounced the ban of L’Express, especially after the Algerian and Tunisian authorities followed Morocco’s lead.

“It is still more unfortunate that Algiers and Tunis decided to follow in Morocco’s footsteps,” added the organization, wondering, “if the kingdom is in the process of becoming an example for the repression of press freedom in the region.”

Even in Lebanon, where one might think that religious subjects, whether Christian or Muslim, are accepted without any problems, censorship has a word to say.

A page containing the article entitled “Iran: the troubling beauty of the Prophet”, in the June 24-28, 2006 edition of French daily Courrier International, was torn out of 280 issues distributed in the country, the instant the newspapers arrived into Lebanon.

The censored article implied that, contrary to Sunni Islam, the Iranian Shia accepts the varying representations of the prophet. The text was published along with the picture of a young man, taken by a Tunisian in 1905, and its Iranian replica, represented as Mohammad’s portrait.

The Lebanese distributors of the paper, with interior ministry approval, tore out the pages so as to avoid destruction of the whole issue. The ministry said on June 28 that it had been done because the article “offended the dignity of Islam and was likely to provoke religious tension between Muslims.”

Dan Brown’s novel, DaVinci Code, was also banned in Lebanon in September 2004. According to the General Security administration, the book was withdrawn from the Lebanese libraries at the request of the Catholic Center for Information, for it contained “defaming” sentences against the Church.

(MENASSAT’s Rita Barotta contributed to this article.)



WTA founder King promotes gender equality in Qatar

By Christopher Torchia

Doha, Qatar (AP) — Billie Jean King is in the conservative Muslim sheikdom of Qatar to promote gender equality in sport, but the WTA Tour founder says change is difficult and takes time.

"That's actually one of the big reasons I wanted to come here, was to learn," said King, who is attending the WTA's season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha. "I really want to listen this week more than anything."

King, a vocal proponent of equal prize money for male and female professional tennis players, said a shift toward gender parity in sport is a gradual process that requires respect for all cultures and religions.

"Human rights are very important. But it is going to take generations to have a shift. Things do not happen quickly, but we have to start someplace," King said. "Just like we began in the United States, standing out in the street and stopping cars to give them tickets" to women's tennis events.

Two years ago, the WTA Tour and UNESCO started a program to promote women's equality in sport, and King was declared "global mentor" of the program at a news conference in Doha on Thursday.

King, who won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, formed the Women's Tennis Association in 1973. That year, the exhibition match she won against Bobby Riggs was dubbed "The Battle of the Sexes."

Players Venus Williams, Tatiana Golovin and Zheng Jie are also involved in the WTA/UNESCO program.

Women have fewer opportunities than men in sports and other fields in Qatar, which sent an all-male team to the Beijing Olympics this year.

King noted that Doha has hosted a WTA event since 2001, and WTA head Larry Scott said 2008 was the first year the season-ending championships for female tennis players was putting up the same prize money as the end-of-year championships for the men in Shanghai.

"The barriers have broken down pretty quickly, with Wimbledon and Roland Garros putting equal prize money on in 2007," Scott said. "And Doha said, 'we want to be the first championships to offer equal prize money for the women.' So I think that speaks volumes in itself."

The WTA also notes that Shahar Peer became the first Israeli to compete in a WTA Tour event in the Arabian Gulf when she played in the Qatar Open earlier this year.

"I think it's a huge step already bringing our competition here, because I don't think people have seen many competitions, women's competitions, in this country before," said Vera Zvonareva of Russia.