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Islamic World News ( 2 Jan 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Closing the book on the Bush era

The Jewish State & Its Arabs by Hillel Halkin

Be People of Conscience. Speak Up Against Tyranny by Fedwa Wazwaz

The Crusades Are Critical History

Muslim women learn to swim: Lessons don't compromise their privacy or faith by Kelly Behling

Swimming in modesty: Muslim women head to a Cary pool as another cultural barrier falls by Yonat Shimron

Makkah and Madinah Real Estate Sector Buoyant Amid Global Financial Crisis - Alpha1Estates

Letter: Cult-like Islamists court condemnation of the world by Daniel Smith

Islamic scholars appeal for end to violence in Somalia

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




Closing the book on the Bush era

By Bob Caldwell, Dec 31, 2008

One year ago on New Year's Eve, we offered this gloomy assessment of the legacy of President George W. Bush:

"It has been an enormously eventful seven years for the United States and for the world. By and large, the changes have not been for the better. The United States is deeper in debt, politically polarized, militarily overextended and more deeply distrusted around the world than it was when the president took office."


It was harsh judgment; couched in considerable relief that only one year remained of the Bush presidency.

As it turned out, though, even that one final year of Bush and his policies brought additional turmoil for the nation and the world.


The anti-regulation climate he created helped thrust the U.S. economy into its worst meltdown since the Great Depression, and his years of blissful inattention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict opened the way for a dangerous aerial bombardment war between Israel and Islamic militants in Gaza.


This day, the first of 2009, couldn't have raced here fast enough. Neither will Jan. 20, when Barack Obama will take the oath as the nation's 44th president.


Repeat that name and pinch yourself. Seven years ago, in the fearful aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, how much would anyone have been willing to wager that Bush would be succeeded by an African American president by the name of Barack Obama?


This truly historic turn of events is more than a testament to the remarkable qualities of America's president-elect. It is also a powerful gauge of a national malaise best described as Bush fatigue.

Americans want change. They want it fervently, and it will come in 20 days, at the inauguration, and then a great many citizens of this country will feel they can finally exhale.


Today, however, marks an appropriate moment to reflect on the Bush presidency. After all, this isn't just New Year's Day; it's also the dawn of a new era, or at least every American should hope it is.


Debate already rages over whether Bush should be regarded as the worst U.S. president. Historians will no doubt include him on any such list, but America has suffered and survived worse chief executives.

Bush, to his credit, appointed African Americans to his cabinet. That alone puts him ahead of Andrew Johnson, who succeeded to the presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and promptly vetoed the first civil rights bill, saying "this is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am president it shall be a government for white men."

Nor can Bush be rated worse than Lincoln's predecessor, James Buchanan, who dismissed slavery as an issue of "little practical importance." As he dithered in office, seven slave states seceded, the Confederacy was formed and U.S. forts fell like dominoes in the South.


The amiably incompetent Warren Harding rounds out most worst-president lists, thanks to his grotesquely corrupt administration. Franklin Pierce, Herbert Hoover, James Polk and William Henry Harrison are often mentioned in such accountings, too, and Bush will likely join them.


If not the worst president, he was at minimum a failed president. Americans showed they understood this in the abysmally low approval ratings they gave him and in their choices of presidential nominees in the 2008 elections.

Remember, Republican outsider John McCain wouldn't have had a prayer of being the GOP nominee if the party faithful hadn't been thoroughly fed up with the Bush-Cheney administration. And in the Democratic primaries, a little-known newcomer with a funny-sounding name -- Obama -- might not have sparked an electoral tsunami if voters of all stripes hadn't been disgusted with the status quo.


Bush loyalists struggle lamely to claim a glowing legacy for the man. They argue that he toppled Saddam Hussein and put terrorism on a successful war footing, that he championed immigration reform, AIDS relief and more accountability in education. They predict he will be thought of someday like Harry Truman, deeply unpopular when he left office but respected by future historians.

A close look, however, shows that Bush's pet programs fell far short of success or completely fizzled, as in the case of immigration reform. And as for comparisons with Truman, it's hard to imagine that any part of Bush's legacy can match Truman's triumphs in rescuing Europe after World War II and building the Atlantic Alliance, which eventually persuaded Moscow to end the Cold War.

Bush will more likely be remembered as the president who misled his country into a ghastly expensive war in Iraq. The president who alienated U.S. allies around the world, who trampled civil liberties in the pursuit of terrorists, who championed tax cuts for the rich while shafting the middle class, who dithered while flood victims suffered and died in New Orleans, who left the next American generation deeply mired in debt.


But the worst president ever? At this moment in history, that's not the right question. A better one is whether Barack Obama will be the leader who can put this great nation back on track.


Apprehensive Americans can take some comfort in the knowledge that some of our worst presidents have been succeeded by some of our greatest. The disastrous Buchanan, remember, was followed by Lincoln.


Thankfully, the Obama administration takes over in 20 days. The challenges it faces are stratospheric, as are the hopes of a yearning nation.





The Jewish State & Its Arabs

By Hillel Halkin, 1st January 2009


Last October 9, the evening of Yom Kippur, Jewish-Arab riots broke out in the Israeli coastal city of Acre. They began with the stoning by Jewish youths of an Arab who drove his car through a Jewish neighbourhood after the onset of the fast, the solemnity of which even secular Jews in Israel (but not Arabs in their own localities) respect by stilling their car engines. Although the driver escaped with minor injuries, rumours that he had been killed spread quickly through Acre’s old, walled quarter, in which most of its Arab population lives. An Arab mob surged out of it, crying Allah akbar, “God is great,” smashing shop windows, looting, and burning cars in the Jewish downtown. On the following night, after the fast had ended, rioting broke out again, this time with Jews, shouting “Death to the Arabs,” taking part too. An Arab apartment was torched and several Arab families living in Jewish neighborhoods were forced to flee their homes. There were similar incidents on the third night. Then Acre quieted down. Luckily, no one had been hurt badly.

About the Author

Hillel Halkin, who lives in Israel, is a veteran writer for COMMENTARY. His recent contributions include “My Pocket Bible” (November 2008) and “How Not to Repair the World” (July-August 2008).



Be People of Conscience. Speak Up Against Tyranny

By Fedwa Wazwaz, December 31, 2008


I had trouble uploading this youtube to the blog, so please click on the link below to view it.

Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, said we should fast on the 9th and 10th of the month of Muharam of the Islamic calendar (which falls on January 6th and 7th in 2009) in celebration of the Israelites' release and freedom from the Pharaoh's tyrannical rule.  This is also the time that Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein was martyred for standing up against the tyrannical Yazid.

It was taught in our Islamic tradition that when Moses, upon him be peace, accidentally killed an Egyptian to defend an Israelite, that he immediately repented to God and realized that he was in error – despite the oppression his people were facing.   So Islam clearly teaches that targeting of civilians (including using rockets and suicide bombings) not only harms the cause of the Palestinians - but moreso it's immoral.  The question that was posed to Moses, upon him be peace via the mouth of an Egyptian at the time was:  "Are you seeking to be a tyrant in the land?"

It wasn't allowed for Moses upon him be peace, and it is not permissible for Palestinians as well.

Having made this clear, it is important to add that standing up to tyranny is a REQUIREMENT in Islam.  There is an Arab proverb that says, "What made you, O Pharoah?"  Pharoah replied: "I didn't find anyone to tell me stop."  Silence and sycophancy are the building blocks of tyranny.  Moses, upon him peace was asked to speak to Pharoah.  Imam Hussein spoke up against the tyranny of Yazid. And people of conscience all over the world, including Jews, must speak up against the tyranny of the Israeli government and the attacks on Gaza.

I have family with home demolition orders, family that were killed by Israeli missiles, family that were in the Ibrahimi Mosque and survived the massacre by Baruch Goldstein. I have family who are suffering settler brutality, curfews, land confiscation, ID confiscation, soldier brutality, etc., This is not a moral fight for me, but one that hits home.  At times, it is hard to call family.  How do I comfort them?  What do I say to my nephew, Abdel Wadood who became a doctor and tells me it is useless, as he cannot travel with all the checkpoints and those that he helps cannot afford to pay.  What do I tell my sister-in-law, Eman who is battling with Israeli courts home demolition orders?  What about my other sister-in-law, Zahera whose family land was confiscated to build a bypass road to connect illegal Israeli settlements to Israel proper?  How do I tell their stories to a people that cannot relate to this inhumane experience and oppression?  How do they fight and defend themselves, their property, and their basic human rights?  These practices are illegal and not open to negotiation.  Why do we accept them?  Who will hold Israel accountable to the law?  what words and in what tone do my family need to speak in - for you to understand occupation and dispossession is wrong?  At times, I get so angry and all I can do is yell irrationally.  At times, I don't know how to control the turmoil of emotions of pain and suffering brewing within.  I tell myself I have to be calm to be heard, but I fall many times trying to be calm and tell their story.  How do I remain calm while telling a story of a people that have been denied justice and their experiences invalidated for decades to a people that cannot relate and yet are the main financial support?


I want you to seek to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at its roots.  There is a simple document by Jews for Justice on the Origin of the Conflict.  See:


"As the periodic bloodshed continues in the Middle East, the search for an equitable solution must come to grips with the root cause of the conflict. The conventional wisdom is that, even if both sides are at fault, the Palestinians are irrational 'terrorists' who have no point of view worth listening to. Our position, however, is that the Palestinians have a real grievance: their homeland for over a thousand years was taken, without their consent and mostly by force, during the creation of the state of Israel. And all subsequent crimes - on both sides - inevitably follow from this original injustice."

     After 17 years of peace negotiations and most Palestinians recognizing Israel's right to exist on 78% of Palestine - Israel responded by gradually continuing its expansionist policies, using the peace process to buy time and—in the words of Israel's former Deputy Minister of Defense, Matan Vilnai — pursuing a "shoah" or holocaust to punish Palestinians for resisting its policies.  The peace negotiations never brought any of these to an end.  There were always hoops for Palestinians to jump through to earn their basic human rights, while Israel continued with its policies as usual.

Some will argue, "But Israel left Gaza."  Yeah, it did.  But not in good faith.  It did not leave Gaza and end the occupation allowing Gaza to function like any state does.  It turned Gaza into an open air prison and besieged it -- punishing 1.5 million Palestinians with starvation and denying them their very human rights we take for granted.

Please read...

"The Israeli government did indeed withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 - in order to be able to intensify control of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon's senior advisor Dov Weisglass was unequivocal about this, explaining: 'The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians… Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely.'"


To the Israeli government and its supporters, I have this message for you.


You claim you are bombing the Gaza Strip to stop terrorists and in self-defence.  On the day Prophet Moses was born, upon him peace - it was prophesied to Pharoah, one that will be an enemy to him will be born.  So in self-defence, Pharoah passed a law which showed as much mercy and compassion to your ancestors as you are showing to the Palestinians today.  Because his enemy was amongst the newborns, he rationalized like you it was a reasonable self-defence to kill every other male newborn.  Like you, Pharoah claimed his enemy was in the midst of civilians so he had no choice.  Like you, he cried "security!"  Moses upon him be peace, rejected that road.  Look in the mirror and reflect on the road you are travelling.  Moses, upon him peace repented when he accidentally killed the Egyptian - he did not rationalize a self-defence story.  That is the road of tyranny. 

To the President, Senators and members of Congress, I end with this message to you.


Two thousand years ago Jesus, upon him peace, came to teach us a lesson.  The lesson was that the divine law is not meant for the strong to violate nine-tenths of the law and to condemn without any mercy or compassion the weak that violate one-tenth of the law.  The divine law has a spirit.  It is mercy and compassion.  It maybe the weak who are violating the law, can argue before God, that we resorted to these means not to disobey you, but to survive - for society did not allow us to survive without them.  Jesus, upon him peace did not negate the Mosaic Law of stoning the prostitute, but he breathed into its spirit.

"Let those who are sinless throw the first stone."

In that spirit, I would argue the prostitute of two thousand years ago is the terrorist of today.  This does not mean we accept terrorism as Jesus, upon him peace did not accept prostitution.  But it means we cannot nurture the environment that breeds them and then bombard them with missiles or stone them to death, overlooking our own grave sins.  No one comes from their mother's womb saying they want to be a prostitute or terrorist when they grow up.

Be people of conscience.  Speak up against tyranny like Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace.



The Crusades Are Critical History

January 1, 2009

Many history books gloss over the “Christian Crusades.” Here’s why that is dangerous.

 The Mainstream of Civilization is the primary history textbook at Herbert W. Armstrong College. When it comes to general history textbooks, Mainstream is as good, if not better, than most.


But it is not without its flaws. The most bothersome to me is the extreme dearth of attention it gives to a certain string of wars. This series of savagery was among the most vicious in Western history, as well as the most defining, and is chillingly prescient in light of current world events.

Of Mainstream’s 979 pages, about one and a half are devoted to the Christian Crusades.

Sadly, this superficial assessment is not an anomaly among history textbooks. This is no small problem. We study history to learn how it should—or, in the case of the Crusades, should not—be repeated.

History students who study the Crusades should explore the following questions: Who exactly was responsible for the Crusades? Why did the Crusades occur? What does this long and vicious series of wars reveal about the nature of the institution that caused them? Beyond bottoming out these questions, students should also consider the medieval Crusades in the context of current world conditions.

This is how we study the Crusades at Herbert W. Armstrong College.

First, although most historians term the gory conflicts between European Christians and Middle Eastern Muslims as “the Crusades” or the “Christian Crusades,” they should more accurately be called the Catholic Crusades. Initiated by Pope Urban ii in 1095, the Crusades were military invasions concocted and fuelled by popes with the objective of consolidating and extending Catholic dominion over Europe, the Middle East and the Holy Land.


Notice what Terry Jones and Alan Ereira wrote in their book Crusades (emphasis mine throughout):

By summoning an army under the banner of the cross, the pope [Urban ii] was extending the church’s mantle over all Christendom. This was the idea at the very heart of the revolutionary papacy; in place of separate local churches at the centre of discreet communities, there was to be one overarching church, ruled by one overarching pope. The Crusade was to be its expression and its instrument.

Compare that with Encyclopaedia Britannica Online’s description of the Crusades: “Military expeditions, beginning in the late 11th century, that were organized by Western Christians in response to centuries of Muslim wars of expansion.” Mainstream is similarly vague. This is entirely misleading. “Christian Crusades” and “Western Christians” are unspecific terms that cloud Catholicism’s central role. The Crusades were a series of Catholic wars initiated and promoted by popes in an effort to extend the Vatican’s influence over Europe, and wrest control of the Holy Land from Muslims.

When studied correctly, the Crusades reveal a lot about the true nature of the Roman Catholic Church!

By the middle of the 11th century, the Catholic Church had become largely secularized and was deeply divided. Papal authority over the Continent was weak and had been severely diminished by European kings who had assumed many of the rights and responsibilities of church leaders. By the end of the 11th century, Rome had had enough.

As Steven Runciman wrote in A History of the Crusades, “The Crusades were the pope’s work.” The Crusades were a papal venture to re-establish Vatican dominion over Christian Europe.

The Crusades essentially began on Nov. 27, 1095, at the Council of Clermont. There in southern France, Pope Urban ii delivered a rousing speech to thousands of followers. Although the pope never released his speech, a few of his followers and listeners wrote it down for posterity. The following snippets, penned by Robert the Monk, provide insight into the reason for the Crusades beyond what you will read in most general history textbooks:

From the confines of Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire ….

Urban wasn’t merely upset at the Muslims for taking Jerusalem; he despised them as “an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God.”

Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to manly achievements; the glory and greatness of King Charles the Great, and of his son Louis, and of your other kings, who have destroyed the kingdoms of the pagans, and have extended in these lands the territory of the holy church.

What was Pope Urban ii doing? He was resurrecting the crusading spirit of Charlemagne, the Catholic emperor responsible for expanding Christianity throughout Europe—via the gruesome slaughter of millions of non-Christians!

Let the holy sepulchre of the Lord our Saviour, which is possessed by unclean nations, especially incite you, and the holy places which are now treated with ignominy and irreverently polluted with their filthiness. … This royal city [Jerusalem], therefore, situated at the centre of the world, is now held captive by His enemies, and is in subjection to those who do not know God, to the worship of the heathens. She seeks therefore and desires to be liberated, and does not cease to implore you to come to her aid.

Purging Jerusalem of the infidel was the central theme of Pope Urban’s speech.

“The continued occupation of the Holy Places,” wrote historian John Julius Norwich, “and above all Jerusalem itself, by the infidel was, [Pope Urban] declared, an affront to Christendom; Christian pilgrims were now being subjected to every kind of humiliation and indignity. It was the duty of all good Christians to take up arms against those who had desecrated the ground upon which Christ had trod to recover it for their own true faith” (The Middle Sea).


Recapturing Jerusalem was Urban’s primary goal for the Crusades.


“Urban’s army would also rescue Jerusalem, the spiritual (and therefore the physical) centre of the universe. He hoped that the redeemed Jerusalem would be directly ruled by the church. Every man who enrolled for the struggle must mark himself out by wearing a cross and, most important, vow to continue on his way until he reached Jerusalem” (op. cit., Jones and Ereira).


Too many history books underrate Jerusalem’s central role in the bloody Crusades. It is a fact of history that the Crusades began with Pope Urban telling Catholic Europeans that it was their Christian duty to recapture Jerusalem, butcher the “heathens” who had infiltrated it, and re-establish Vatican control over the spiritual and physical “centre” of the universe.


The handiwork of these who called themselves “God’s representatives” was the bloodiest kind of work imaginable.


Norwich wrote, “On Friday, 15 July, 1099, amid scenes of hideous carnage, the soldiers of Christ battered their way into Jerusalem, where they celebrated their victory by slaughtering all the Muslims in the city and burning all the Jews alive in the main synagogue.”


Mainstream and many other general history books fail to mention that when the Catholic soldiers invaded Jerusalem, they killed 70,000 Jews and Arabs—or even that 200 years of Catholic crusading left the blood of several hundred thousand to several million people soaking into the holy land!

The battle for Jerusalem was so gruesome, wrote Norwich, that afterward some of the Crusaders, “sickened by the atrocities they had seen committed in Christ’s name,” had to leave. Haunted and ashamed by the unspeakable carnage they had committed, many Catholic Crusaders couldn’t bear to live in the city they had dedicated their lives to conquering!

The Crusades reveal the Vatican’s deep hunger for Jerusalem, and the barbaric extent to which it is prepared to go to control that city!


The Last Crusade

Now, if we are to really give weight and meaning to the medieval Crusades, we must consider them in the context of current world conditions.

Consider Europe, once the bastion of Catholicism. Today, the continent, from the Vatican’s perspective, is far too heavily shaped and influenced by secularism. Pope Benedict xvi has made it clear he believes Catholicism ought to play a much greater role in European affairs. He believes and declares that Europe’s leaders and people need to focus on the contribution Catholicism has made in building Europe.


That’s what led Benedict to revive the words of his predecessor, John Paul ii, who said in 1981: “I, bishop of Rome and shepherd of the universal church … utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love: Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots. Return to those authentic values which made your history a glorious one and your presence so beneficent in the other continents.”


Toward the end of the 11th century, Pope Urban would tell you he couldn’t have said it better himself! He too recognized that Catholicism had been marginalized by secularist leaders. In his speech at the Council of Clermont in 1095, Urban—sensing growing concern about marauding Muslim armies to the south—ignited a military campaign that not only brought a temporary end to Islamic expansion and recaptured the Holy Land for Catholicism, but re-established Vatican dominion over Catholic Europe!


Will Pope Benedict xvi do something similar?

Even as you read this column, war is raging between Israel and Muslims in the Gaza Strip who are bent on purging Israel of Jews and ultimately taking control of Jerusalem. This war is merely one battle of a larger campaign by radical terrorists and terrorist-sponsoring states and organizations around the world, as the Trumpet has explained, to bulldoze Israelis into the sea and regain control of Jerusalem!


When the pope looks at the Middle East today, he basically sees what Pope Urban ii saw in 1095. He sees the Holy Land wracked with chaos and surrounded by empowered, motivated and increasingly combative Muslim armies. He sees that Muslims have infiltrated and heavily influenced Jerusalem, which, he believes, as Urban ii put it, increasingly “seeks … and desires to be liberated, and does not cease to implore [Catholics] to come to her aid.”


He sees radical Islam seeking confrontation with Catholicism! “Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it,” Caroline Glick wrote last week. “On Tuesday Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a sharia criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, the code legalizes crucifixion.” Hamas now endorses nailing the enemies of Islam to the cross!


How will Pope Benedict respond to these conditions?


Bible prophecy reveals that he will follow in the footsteps of Pope Urban!


One of the most pertinent prophecies about this last crusade is in Daniel 11:40: “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.”

This spirit of the medieval Crusades is embodied in this end-time prophecy!

The clash of Daniel 11:40, as we have often explained, occurs when the king of the south, or radical Islamic forces led by Iran, pushes the king of the north, a Catholic-inspired, German-led union of European nations, into war. Here’s what Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote about this scripture in Prophesy Again:


This “push” actually triggers World War iii! The king of the north, the Holy Roman Empire, will win. What is that push? Just like the Crusades, there will be two great religions fighting over Jerusalem. That push will probably revolve around Jerusalem.


You can’t get this in mainstream textbooks.


This is why the Trumpet pays so much attention to what’s happening in Jerusalem. That city is the nucleus around which the majority of end-time Bible prophecies revolve. Whether it’s the impending fall of East Jerusalem to the Arabs prophesied in Zechariah 14, or the “push” and the violent clash described in Daniel 11:40 and elsewhere, time can be measured by events unfolding in Jerusalem!


The reason for Jerusalem’s centrality to end-time prophecy could not be more exciting: Each of these events immediately precedes the return of Jesus Christ to the Mount of Olives and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth whose headquarters will be in Jerusalem! That’s right: Despite the bloody, misguided efforts of mankind to control Jerusalem, this city will soon be ruled by Jesus Christ Himself.



Letter: Cult-like Islamists court condemnation of the world

By Daniel Smith, January 1, 2009

I hear that Arabs are protesting the Israeli attacks on Gaza. These attacks are in response to the Hamas attacks on Israel — more than 200 missiles in the past month.

Where is the Arab outcry about that? I’ll tell you. Nowhere. Radical Arabs are murderous people who have perverted Islam from a religion to a cult.


Thinking, intelligent people of the world now only know Islam as a cult that preaches and teaches murder. Louis Farrakhan preaches the same thing here.

Islamic fanatics freely murder, yet they whine when they suffer retribution. Israel wouldn’t return fire unless it was attacked (which it was), yet the radical Arab cult feels free to commit murder and that the entire world should stand by.

Muslims in the United States are no better. They refuse to denounce the murder that their radical brethren commit daily. A true religion would teach love and tolerance like Christianity does, not murder and terror as Islam does today.


I follow the news very closely and there has never been an Arab condemnation of murder, not from the leaders or their followers.


What would our world look like, if all Islamists simply stopped murdering? Hard to imagine, since it’s so prevalent. They live in nations that are impoverished and devastated, yet they focus on murder and not building up their homes.


The energy they focus on killing everyone could be much better focused on saving their communities and not relying on other nations to support them. The United States gives millions in aid to the very nations that want to kill us all.



Muslim women learn to swim

Lessons don't compromise their privacy or faith

By Kelly Behling,


Since summer, Huma and Salman Sheikh of Cary have been working to arrange swimming lessons for Muslim women. After arranging lessons for their sons at the Triangle Aquatics Centre in Cary, they began discussing how the women could learn without compromising their privacy and their faith.


“According to the Shariah guidelines [Islamic law derived from authentic Islamic texts] Muslim women should not be without Hijab [hair covering and modest clothing] among men who are not related to them,” Salman Sheikh said, explaining the need for privacy.


The Sheikhs talked with others in the local Muslim community to see if there was any interest. Once they knew that enough women wanted to learn to swim, they started working to make the swimming lessons happen. An instructional pool with eight windows looking out into the main pool seemed like it would allow for privacy, but the windows needed shades. TAC contacted vendors and found that the shades would cost $3,000.


After contacting the mosques in Raleigh and Cary, the Sheikhs started to receive checks ranging from $20 to $500.

“Even individuals and families who did not intend on participating in the class found an opportunity to contribute, with the intention of giving for Sadaqat-ul-Jaaria, a form of charity that continues to benefit people over time and rewards the original donor even after their death,” Salman Sheikh said.


About 30 women, aged 20 to 40, and six girls signed up for the classes, which began Dec. 6. Doracy Harrison, program manager at TAC, worked with the Sheikhs to develop the program.


“TAC is a public aquatic centre so it was great to be able to provide this for Muslim women,” Harrison said. “Now that we have the shades in place we can offer group swims and other public functions.”


The lessons are geared around a combination of water safety and swimming strokes.

Jenny Jaber of Raleigh signed two of her daughters up for lessons. “I fear double drowning,” she said. “There are so many lakes around here. If someone is in the water, they don’t know to take their veil off. It is uncomfortable to have a wet veil around your head and face.”


After only two lessons the women were already becoming comfortable in the water. While some women were waiting for their lessons, they splashed each other, practiced their freestyle and watched as others received instruction on floating and the backstroke. Several women wore tight-fitting pants or leggings and shirts into the pool.

“I was so excited,” Israa Dorgham said. “I’ve always wanted to learn but never had the opportunity. I encouraged everyone I knew to take the lessons.”


Swimming in modesty

Muslim women head to a Cary pool as another cultural barrier falls

By Yonat Shimron,


Thu, Jan. 01, 2009


Salman Sheikh was organizing a swim class for his two sons last summer when fellow Muslim parents approached him about starting a class for girls.


Sheikh told them he would ask the Curran Aquatic Centre in Cary whether it could accommodate a group of Muslims who preferred a women-only pool.

Yes, of course, the leaders of the aquatic centre said, and showed him a 15-yard pool that could be rented for $170 an hour.

Problem was, the small pool overlooked a larger, Olympic-size pool, and Sheikh wondered whether the centre could provide blinds to cover the windows and shield the women from onlookers.


Sure, the centre’s leaders said, but it would cost $3,000 for custom-made blinds. Sheikh was ready to drop the idea. But the Muslim community in Raleigh and Cary wouldn't let him.


Within a month, Sheikh, a native of Pakistan who works as a project manager for the state Department of Health and Human Services, raised the money and signed up 35 women for the first class.

Last month, a group of women of all ages dipped their toes into the water for the first time.

This type of accommodation to the religious requirements of their faith is something Muslims are seeing more. All-Muslim Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops have cropped up across the country. Muslims are entering politics, studying Islam at major American universities, even finding halal, or ritually slaughtered foods, at local stores.


"I see this as sign of Muslims learning to operate within American civic institutions," said Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.

For many of the women who signed up for the first class, learning to swim had been a long-deferred wish.

"I didn't ever want to be in a situation where I fall in the water and can't help myself," said Tarannum Khan, 30, who signed up for the class in Cary.


Many devout Muslim women adhere to their faith's requirements to guard their modesty, which for them means covering their hair and bodies in the presence of men who aren't their relatives. By doing so, they believe they are deflecting the desires and gazes of the opposite sex and living the kind of life the Prophet Muhammad might have approved.


Deprived of a dip

In mostly Muslim countries, it is common to have separate pools for men and women. But in the United States that's virtually unheard of, and as a result many Muslim women grow up not knowing how to swim.


Saleha Bhatti of Raleigh, who accompanied her 16-year-old daughter, Sanaa, to the swim class, said that was the case in her family. Had she stayed in Pakistan, she might have taken lessons at a women's pool, but in the United States, it wasn't an option.

"We never had the chance to learn," Bhatti said.

Jenny Jaber, a convert to Islam who lives in Raleigh, said learning to swim should not be a luxury. Indeed, she said, learning to swim is encouraged in the oral sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, known as the hadith.

"I've wanted to waterproof this community for a long time," said Jaber, who worked as a water safety instructor until she converted. "We're around water all the time, and it unnerves me to see these women standing on piers."


The first swimming class for Muslim women focused mostly on the fundamentals of water safety: wading, learning to float, and learning to breathe.

Many of the women came dressed in full-length Burkinis, swimming costumes that looks much like a scuba-diving suit but are made of water-protected polyester rather than rubber. Designed for Muslim women, they cover the entire body except for the hands, feet and face.


Huma Sheikh, the wife of Salman, said she considers herself a pioneer among Triangle Muslim women who have learned to swim. She is proud that her husband and her two boys, Hamza, 9, and Mohhid, 7, can swim. And proud that she can, too.

"I've learned all the strokes," she said, "but I'm best at the breast stroke."

The first class ended last month, and the Sheikhs are planning another one in March or April.


"It's created a lot of excitement," said Doracy Harrison, program manager at the Curran Aquatic Centre. "It's been really neat."

For the Sheikhs, the success of the class is a lesson in cultural adjustment. "It makes sense for business and service providers to accommodate the needs of the community," Salman Sheikh said. "All it takes is dialogue to make it happen." or 919-829-4891


Makkah and Madinah Real Estate Sector Buoyant Amid Global Financial Crisis - Alpha1Estates


Global Islamic real estate consultancy Alpha1Estates International said on January 1 and in the new Islamic new year of 1430 that property investment in the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah next year will continue to boom, despite the global financial crisis hitting most real estate markets around the world.


London, UK (PRWEB) January 1, 2009 -- The Company, which launched to global acclaim on January 1 2006, said that despite the downward trend and corrections most markets will experience, the real estate sector in the Holy Cities is likely to buck the general downward trend in 2009 CE/ 1430 AH and continue appreciating in value.


"Prophet Muhammad may the peace and blessings be upon him, counselled Muslims about the immense spiritual blessings of living in the Holy Cities," said Talal Mahmood Malik al-Alawi, CEO of Alpha1Estates International. "But even in this most cherished of spiritual investments, there are sound financial reasons to invest in future living in Makkah al-Mukarramah and al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, particularly during the global financial crisis."


The main reasons why Muslim real estate investors should seek to invest in the Holy Cities now, Mr. Talal said, is inelastic and rising global demand from the world's billion and a half-plus Muslims, supported by significant public and private sector investment in infrastructure, both for the Grand Mosques and transport to them.


Alpha1Estates International launched in 2006 to become the world's first company to market property in both Makkah and Madinah, with its projects ZamZam Tower, Makkah, Abraj al-Bait, Makkah, Hajar Tower, Makkah and Taiba Eastern Tower, Madinah all centrally located near the two Holy Mosques, and in subsequent years has launched the world's first bespoke real estate consultancy programme and joint-investment fund focused on the Holy Cities.


Mr. Talal also said that ten million Muslim pilgrims from 140 countries visit the Holy Cities annually for Hajj and Umrah, contributing 20 billion riyals ($5.3 billion) per year, the second-most lucrative source of the Kingdom's revenue after oil.


Real estate investment in Makkah and Madinah accounts for 40% of total real estate investments in the Kingdom, reflected in land prices in the Holy Cities being the most expensive in the world at between $70,000 and $110,000 per sq. metre.


The Grand Mosque in Makkah in 2008 and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah in 2006 have undertaken multi-billion dollar expansion and infrastructure investment programmes, the CEO added.


Air transport to the Holy Mosques is also being boosted with the expansion of the Jeddah International Airport for Makkah and the Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah, whilst ground transport is being transformed with the creation of the Makkah-Madinah Railway Link - where the near 4-hour journey will be priced for pilgrims at 60 riyals ($16).


Mr. Talal also said that the general macro-view of Saudi Arabia's real estate market is favourable, as demonstrated by global real estate company Jones Lang LeSalle ranking the kingdom sixth globally in terms in terms of increased real estate transparency between 2006 and 2008. Alpha1Estates International advised Jones Lang LeSalle in 2007 on how to enter the Saudi Arabian real estate market.

2008 CE/ 1429 AH have been an immensely successful year for Alpha1Estates International, Mr. Talal said, with the company's reputation in the Middle East and globally enhancing without a doubt.

In January, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah officially approved the expansion of the Grand Mosque's northern courtyard, coming more than two years after the CEO exclusively revealed the expansion plans on the company's international television debut in December 2005.


On February 2, the CEO of Alpha1Estates International was a VIP guest of the Government of Dubai and became the first person to fly over The World islands in Dubai following their completion, Burj Dubai after the world's tallest building's height had exceeded 600 metres and also over then-unknown Atlantis Hotel on The Palm Jumeirah Islands. A stunning photograph of the landmark helicopter journey has been accepted as an entry in the prestigious international photography competition, Picture of the Year.


In May, the CEO led a prestigious regional media-initiative to promote the achievements of Arabian Businesswomen which featured the Khadijah bint Khuwailid Businesswomen's Centre in Jeddah and its CEO Dr. Basma Omair. The media initiative also featured Muna AbuSulayman, whose roles at the United Nation Development Programme, the Alwaleed bin Talal Kingdom Foundation, MBC, and her new fashion business venture make her one of the world's most influential Arabian women.


In June, the CEO became the first person in the Middle East to be featured in prime Arabic media for undertaking the latest extensive DNA-genealogy testing procedures. From June 22-24, the CEO was a VIP guest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Government, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and the Governorate of Madinah at the inaugural Noor Conference about the Knowledge Economic City (KEC), Madinah.


In November, the CEO was a prime delegate at the World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain, where he conducted his first major exclusive interview in

Arabic with Bahrain's leading newspaper, Al-Waqt, prioritising it ahead of major television interview opportunities with Reuters International, CNBC Arabiya and al-Jazeera. The interview resulted in a front-page world-exclusive news story about the global Islamic finance sector.


In December, the CEO conducted his second major interview in Arabic, leading a prestigious news story about the global Islamic finance sector in pan-Arab daily newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat.


Over the past year, the CEO Mr. Talal Mahmood Malik al-Alawi has met the following dignitaries relating to the work of Alpha1Estates International in Islamic real estate and finance:


HRH Prince Abdul Aziz bin Majed, the Governor of Madinah

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Director of Zaytuna College

Mr. Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank founder, microfinance expert and Nobel Peace Prize Winner 2006

Mr. Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric and Fortune Magazine's 'CEO of the Century'

Mr. Rushdi Siddiqui - Global Director of the Dow Jones Islamic Indexes