Indonesians ignore religious edicts against smoking, yoga Shining a light on Islam's hidden scientific treasure Most wanted Nazi converted to Islam, died in Egypt World Muslim Scholars to Meet In Kuala Lumpur Islam, democracy, human rights compatible – Shirin Ebadi German, Tunisian sentenced in synagogue attack Austria debates democratic credentials of its Islam teachers CAIR Welcomes Obams's Islamic Reference Iraq's Maliki emerges as forceful nationalist Terror suspects maintain contact with terrorist groups Editor Upholds Ideology of Iran's Islamic Revolution Hamas are Sunnis! - Tariq Alhomayed Anti-Islam UK teacher sues bosses for 100 K pounds Fearful erosion of liberties -- Andrew Shaw Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Indonesians ignore religious edicts against smoking, yoga
Shining a light on Islam's hidden scientific treasure
Most wanted Nazi converted to Islam, died in Egypt
World Muslim Scholars to Meet In Kuala Lumpur
Islam, democracy, human rights compatible – Shirin Ebadi
German, Tunisian sentenced in synagogue attack
Austria debates democratic credentials of its Islam teachers
CAIR Welcomes Obams's Islamic Reference
Iraq's Maliki emerges as forceful nationalist
Terror suspects maintain contact with terrorist groups
Editor Upholds Ideology of Iran's Islamic Revolution
Hamas are Sunnis! - Tariq Alhomayed
Anti-Islam UK teacher sues bosses for 100 K pounds
Fearful erosion of liberties -- Andrew Shaw
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Egyptian Cleric Galal Al-Khatib Explains Wife-Beating in Islam
February 5, 2009
Following are excerpts from a sermon by Egyptian cleric Galal Al-Khatib, which aired on Al-Rahma TV on December 24, 2008.
To view this clip, visit http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2006.htm.
"One of the Husband's Rights is to Discipline His Wife If She Is Disobedient... The First Measure... Is To Admonish Her"
Galal Al-Khatib: "One of the husband's rights is to discipline his wife if she is disobedient. What does the word 'disobedience' mean? Disobedience is to leave the house without the husband's permission, to refuse to obey the husband in bed, to speak to the husband impolitely, or to do the opposite of what he likes. All these are forms of disobedience.
"Religious law has instated several measures of disciplining a disobedient wife. These measures must be followed consecutively. You cannot jump to the third measure before despairing of the second, and you cannot jump to the second before despairing of the first. The order must be followed.
"The first measure for reforming a disobedient wife is to admonish her. The husband should talk to her gently, reminding her of God, and reminding her that if she wants to enter Paradise, she must obey him. He must tell her that by pleasing her husband, she pleases God, and that his rights supersede the rights of her parents." [...]
"The Next Measure Is 'Banishment'"
"Okay, if admonishing doesn’t work, the next measure is 'banishment.' Some say that the wife should be banished from his bed, while others say he should refrain from having sex with her, although I do not agree with the latter view, because having sex is one of the rights of the husband, so how can he discipline her by depriving himself of sex?
"It's enough if he refrains from smiling and saying nice things to her, and instead, he gives her the cold shoulder, but he has the right to have sex with her, even during banishment."
"When This Doesn't Work, He Says To Her: With You, I Have Reached a Stage Which Is Only Appropriate For Inhumane People - The Stage of Beating"
"Okay, he's tried admonishing; he's tried banishment - but nothing. Her emotions are numb, and she says: Good riddance. So what is the next measure? "...and beat them." beating. The Prophet Muhammad said that the beatings should be light, and that one should avoid the face, or the sensitive areas, which might lead to broken bones, or might leave a mark that would spoil her beauty, whether on her face or anywhere on her body. Beatings that draw blood, or break bones, or leave a scar, a black mark on the skin, or any obvious mark, which would make people, know that she was harshly beaten - this is forbidden.
"How should the beatings go? Maybe a light slap on her shoulder, or maybe a not-so-light pinch, or a kind of gentle shove. He should make her feel that he wants to reform her, and let her know that he is displeased with her. It is like saying: None of the measures that work with sensitive people work with you. A word would be enough for any wife with lofty morals, but with you, words do not help.
"Then he attempts a new direction, appealing to her femininity and emotions, by making her feel that he doesn't want her or love her. When this doesn't work, he says to her: With you, I have reached a stage which is only appropriate for inhumane people - the stage of beating.
"Beating is one of the punishments of religious law. What kind of people are beaten? Virgin adulterers, both men and women, are beaten as a means of discipline. Who else is beaten? A person who committed an offense and was sentenced by the judge to beatings. Who else is beaten? Someone who committed a crime. By beating his wife, the husband is saying: You've committed a grave sin that merits beatings."
Indonesians ignore religious edicts against smoking, yoga
Yoga practitioners in Denpasar, Indonesia. Islamic clerics decided that Muslims may engage in the form of exercise as long as they don’t chant.
Although Indonesia is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, many view Islamic clerics' fatwas as anachronistic and unnecessary.
By Paul Watson, February 6, 2009
Reporting from Jakarta, Indonesia -- Indonesia's most powerful Islamic scholars weren't looking for a debate when they handed down their latest fatwa’s on how to be a good Muslim.
But they still got an argument and, perhaps worse, a chorus of "Who cares?" after decreeing that it is haram, or forbidden, to smoke in public, or for children and pregnant women to have a puff of tobacco anywhere.
It didn't matter that the clerics were providing sound health guidance. The council of clerics that interprets Sharia, or Islamic law, for the world's largest Muslim population often leaves many shrugging their shoulders in confusion or disbelief.
When about 700 members of the council handed down a fresh list of fatwa’s last week, they included ones on marriage to minors, cornea donations and yoga. As usual, most Indonesians blithely ignored the rulings.
Unlike more fundamentalist Islamic cultures such as Iran, where fatwa’s can be a life-or-death matter, most people in this overwhelmingly Muslim country of 237 million pay little attention because the edicts usually have little to do with what really matters to them, said Rumadi, a lecturer at an Islamic state university here.
"If a fatwa can't be seen as solving a problem, it will only create more problems," added the lecturer, who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name.
Fatwa’s don't have the force of law in Indonesia, which is officially a secular society that protects the rights of non-Muslim minorities, including Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. With that in mind, many Indonesian Muslims view the Council of Ulema's judgments as unnecessary, often anachronistic meddling in their personal lives.
One of the latest fatwa’s approved of men marrying child brides, as long as their motives are good. Islam doesn't set a minimum age for marriage, the council declared, adding that "early marriage" is prohibited if "it is only for pleasure."
As the country's emerging democracy gains strength, so have the council's detractors, who like many people here in Jakarta, the capital, wish the Islamic scholars would just butt out.
Days after the anti-smoking fatwa made national headlines, Jakarta's air is still pungent with the sweet scent of Indonesians' favorite smoke: clove cigarettes called kreteks because of the soft crackling sound the 19th century originals made as flecks of spice burned. Near high schools across the city, whether Muslim madrasas or secular public schools, hawkers were happily selling single cigarettes to crowds of kids.
Battered by waves of bad economic news, the government appeared relieved that the fatwa seemed to have little effect on the craving for cigarettes in a country that has the world's fifth-largest population of smokers. Tobacco taxes bring more than $4 billion into the treasury each year, and the head of customs and excise estimated that revenue could drop 10% if people followed the fatwa.
What's lucrative for the tax man is lethal for many smokers: About 200,000 Indonesians die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organization.
To some Indonesians, the council crossed a democratic line with a fatwa that said a Muslim shouldn't abstain from voting. Opponents insist that voters have the right not to cast ballots in this summer's national elections.
The Jakarta Post defiantly said in a headline, "Do I go to hell if I don't vote? Hell, no!"
The council tried to ease any fears among electoral abstainers, who make up at least 40% of voter rolls in local elections, saying the fatwa is merely helpful advice.
The council was set up in 1975 by President Suharto, who, after seizing power in a military coup a decade earlier, drew support from Islamic parties that liked his tough anti-communist stand.
Suharto tolerated moderate Muslim leaders, particularly those who supported him, while banning radical Islamic parties.
The dozens of Suharto-era fatwa’s were easily ignored. The first batch in 1976 included instructions on how to perform Friday prayers in a boat, and told government officials to live modestly, an unlikely proposition in Suharto's graft-laden bureaucracy.
Seven years later, the clerics defined proper praying in a two-story mosque, forbade the eating of rabbit meat and prohibited the singing of Koranic verses. More food edicts followed against dining on frogs, worms, crickets and crabs.
The council behaved "just like a [trained] seal" under Suharto, said Novriantoni Kahar, program manager for the Liberal Islam Network.
Yet even after gaining more authority over interpretation of Sharia, the clerics still have a credibility problem, Kahar said.
"People criticize the [council] for issuing an ineffective fatwa," Kahar said. "Well, it should be ineffective. By issuing ineffective fatwas, we know that its role is insignificant."
Still, there is increasing friction between liberal and conservative Muslims, and between Muslims and minority religious groups, as hard-line Muslims press for changes that most Indonesians view as excessive.
When parliament toughened an anti-pornography law last year, the government of the Indonesian resort island of Bali, which is predominantly Hindu, said the law threatened cultural rights by vaguely defining as illegal anything that inflames sexual desire.
Last week, the council deliberated on the propriety of yoga and decided it was OK for Muslims to do the poses as long as they don't chant. The clerics also condemned vasectomies.
Such rulings haven't satisfied a group of more fundamentalist clerics, who have tried to muscle out the government-sanctioned council in a fatwa fight.
Last weekend, a group of extremist clerics here declared its own fatwa against the Rotary and Lions clubs, insisting that a Zionist plot controls the service clubs better known in the West for chicken lunches and charity work.
The council said it would investigate the two clubs, which were banned until 2000, and issue its own findings. The clerics responded by defying the council's authority, warning Muslim members of the clubs to quit immediately, and leaving them to worry about what might happen if they don't. Email id: email@example.com
Shining a light on Islam's hidden scientific treasure
'Sultans of Science' exhibit aims to teach Canada about little-known discoveries made centuries ago
By Noor Javed
Over a thousand years ago, Al-Zahrani mastered the techniques and tools of surgery. Long before the Wright brothers were born, Abbas bin Firnas engineered the first flying machine in 9th-century Spain. Ibn Al-Haytham, an Iraqi scientist, invented the first pinhole camera.
They are scientists that few in Toronto have heard of. Their discoveries, made centuries ago at the height of Islamic civilization, have largely been overlooked.
Their legacy, which laid the foundation for scientists and civilizations that followed, has rarely been appreciated by the masses – until now.
A new interactive exhibit, "Sultans of Science: 1,000 years of Knowledge Rediscovered," opening tomorrow at the Ontario Science Centre, aims to educate the public on scientific history they were never taught in the classroom.
"All people who come to the exhibition will learn about the history of science, but they will also learn the history of science didn't begin in Europe," said Lesley Lewis, the CEO of the science centre.
When Ludo Verheyen, the exhibit's designer, began his research six years ago to build the permanent Dubai-based display, he was stunned to find how much he didn't know about the discoveries made between the 8th and 18th century.
"I thought to myself, why didn't we know about this? Why didn't we learn about this in history?"
When the original exhibition opened at the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai in 2006, he found others from around the world were asking the same questions, and so the idea for a travelling exhibit featuring the glory days of Islamic knowledge was born.
"It's about time," said Jehad Aliweiwi, a member of the Ontario Science Centre's community advisory council, who helped with marketing advice.
"Considering a lot of modern discoveries that we rely on in our daily lives came about during this era, we have a lot to learn," said Aliweiwi, the executive director of Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, a non-profit organization that provides services to newcomers.
While the exhibition is not political or religious in nature, its role in today's political climate cannot be dismissed, says Aliweiwi.
"There is an intense interest in anything that is Islamic, and it is inevitably politicized," he said.
"Something like this goes beyond the politics and explains to people the richness and the long tradition of education and discovery that existed in this civilization, and that we aren't always these angry people," he adds.
Aliweiwi is convinced this exhibit will be educational and inspirational for the Muslim community as well.
"I am hoping some of the kids who come here will say, `This is where we were, and this is where we can go.'"
Along with this exhibition, the centre is running the IMAX documentary Journey to Mecca: In the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, a film that recounts the pilgrimage of the great traveller Battuta from Tangier to Mecca to perform the Hajj in 1325.
"Sultans of Science" runs until May 10.
Most wanted Nazi converted to Islam, died in Egypt - reports
06 Feb 2009
For decades Nazi hunters have been trying to trace the most wanted war criminal still alive from World War II.
Aribert Heim has been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Jews in concentration camps, and while he had been traced to Israel, investigators now believe he died in 1992 – in Egypt.
The reports said Heim was living under a pseudonym and had converted to Islam by the time of his death from intestinal cancer.
Germany's ZDF television said that in a joint effort with the New York Times, it located a passport, application for a residence permit, bank slips, personal letters and medical papers, in all more than 100 documents, left behind by Heim in a briefcase in the hotel room where he lived under the name Tarek Hussein Farid.
Cairo hotelier, Mahmoud Doma, confirmed in a recent interview with ZDF that a man he identified as Heim moved into his hotel and became friendly with his family.
German investigators who have hunted Heim for decades said on Thursday that new information indicating the former concentration camp doctor died in Egypt in 1992 appears credible and that they will attempt to locate his corpse to rule out any doubt.
The Baden-Wuerttemberg state police unit that investigates Nazi-era crimes is preparing a request asking Egyptian authorities to allow them to pursue the case in Cairo, a unit spokesman said.
Heim's son Ruediger told Germany's ZDF television in an interview recorded in January that his father fled to Egypt after authorities tried to arrest him at his Baden-Baden home in 1962.
The younger Heim contradicted previous statements that he had never had any contact with his father since that time, telling ZDF that he had met with him several times in Cairo, starting in the mid-1970s.
Asked about the discrepancies, Heim told the AP on Thursday that the ZDF interview was the correct version of the story.
Heim would not elaborate on why he decided to speak now, or why he kept his silence for so long.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s head Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff, said Aribert Heim has previously been linked to Egypt, but the story raises "more questions than it answers".
"What's missing from the presentation by ZDF and the New York Times is the conclusive proof that he indeed died in Egypt in 1992. In other words, there is no grave, there is no body, we can't do any DNA testing and remember that there are people like his family who have a vested interest in convincing us that Heim is no longer alive." said Zuroff.
Born in 1914 in Radkersburg, Austria, Aribert Heim joined the local Nazi party in 1935, three years before Austria was bloodlessly annexed by Germany.
He later joined the Waffen SS and was assigned to Mauthausen, a concentration camp near Linz, Austria, as a camp doctor in October and November 1941.
While there, witnesses told investigators, he worked closely with SS pharmacist Erich Wasicky on such gruesome experiments as injecting various solutions into Jewish prisoners' hearts to see which killed them the fastest.
On Thursday, Noah Flug, a Holocaust survivor from the Mauthausen Concentration Camp reacted to the news of Heim's alleged death by saying it "was a tragedy that a lot of these cruel brutal SS men" could go to South America, or some "Arab countries" and live normally without punishment.
In 1961, German authorities were alerted that he was living in Baden-Baden and began an investigation, but when they finally went to arrest him in September 1962, they just missed him, and he apparently had been tipped off.
Heim would be 94 today if still alive.
World Muslim Scholars And Activists To Meet In Kuala Lumpur
By Soraya Jamal, February 07, 2009
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 (Bernama) -- Some 200 Muslim scholars and activists from 40 countries will meet in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13 to discuss necessary reforms to laws that bind, shape and affect the daily lives of Muslim families.
The five-day meeting will launch the 'Musawah', which is the Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim family, to be organised by Sisters in Islam (SIS) and an international planning committee of 12 scholars and activists.
Several scholars at the forefront of progressive school of thought in Islam will be attending the meeting.
Among them are Muhammad Khalid Masud who heads the Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan, Dr Hashim Kamali (Director-General, International Institute for Advanced Islamic Studies, Malaysia), Farida Bennani from Morocco, Sana Benachour (Tunisia), Kyai Hussein Muhammad (Indonesia) and Ziba Mir-Hosseini (Britain).
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Professor Yakin Erturk, will open the meeting.
According to the statement issued by SIS, the Musawah will galvanise the efforts of women's groups and progressive scholars who have worked for decades to bring end to unjust laws and discriminatory practices in the Muslim world.
While the world today regards women's rights as an integral part of human rights, there appears to be a disconnect between Muslim family laws and women's daily realities.
These family laws also violate constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination and government commitments to international human rights conventions, the statement said.
The movement contends that this discrimination is untenable and indefensible.
ISLAM EMBODIES EQUALITY
Many women today are providers and protectors of their families. Yet family laws in many Muslim countries remain frozen in the classical legal framework.
A woman's right to education, work, and travel or even to leave the matrimonial home is dependent on the husband's permission. Her right to custody of her children and to maintenance can be lost if she is disobedient, it said.
Islam embodies equality, justice, love, compassion and mutual respect between all human beings, and these values provide a path toward change.
The reform of laws and practices for the benefit of the society has always been part of the Muslim legal tradition.
For decades, women activists and rights groups in Muslim societies working towards law reforms have faced strong opposition from powerful forces in the name of religion and state-sanctioned patriarchy, it said.
Activists however, received fresh impetus for change from the achievements of the women's movement in Morocco, which successfully campaigned for a comprehensive reform in 2004 of the Moudana (personal status code) to emphasise principles of equality between women and men.
Thus, in 2006, Muslim scholars and activists from South-East Asia, West Asia, Morocco, the United States and the United Kingdom attended a Trends in Family Law Reform in Muslim Countries meeting in Kuala Lumpur and proposed the building of an international network of Muslim women's groups to share strategies, scholarship and best practices.
This sharing will develop the international discourse, public voice and momentum to protect existing rights and promote reform at the national and regional levels.
Malaysia is regarded a model Muslim country.
By supporting Musawah, the country will have the privilege of leading an international law reform movement to end discrimination against Muslim women across the globe.
It will help dismantle the stereotypical image of Islam as a religion that discriminates against women and breaking the typecast image of the Muslim woman as silent and oppressed.
The meeting will launch the Musawah Framework for Action, the conceptual framework and principles that will guide the work for Musawah,bringing together Islamic teachings, universal human rights principles, fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees, and the lived realities of women and men today.
A book of seven working papers, which will serve as a resource for the movement will also be launched.
The working papers will demonstrate the possibility of finding justice and equality for women within Islam, how reforms and protection of rights are possible within Muslim contexts and how justice and equality are necessary given the realities of lives today.
The Musawah website, which contains resources on family law reform, advocacy strategies and information from over 30 countries, will also be launched.
Topics to be discussed will include why equality is possible and necessary in the Muslim family, feminism and religion, successful campaigns and strategies for reform and ensuring equality without exception.
Contact 603-77856121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ebadi says Islam, democracy, human rights compatible
By Roger Lopez
Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi said Islam, democracy and human rights are compatible during the Mission Week keynote address Thursday afternoon.
Ebadi spoke to a full crowd in the Alumni Memorial Ballrooms. A simulcast of the speech was provided in an additional AMU room for those without a ticket to the event.
Ebadi said Iran's ambassadors to the United States are the students and professors who come to learn and teach at American universities like Marquette. She said the cultural exchange between the two countries is growing, but that the political relationship still has to be established.
On democracy, Ebadi said Islam does question the belief that the vote of the majority is righteous. But all cultures and societies, she said, should question that vote.
"A vote of the majority does not constitute a democracy, rather the respect that is shown to human rights," Ebadi said.
She said Islam is the only ideology of some countries in the Middle East, and any criticism of these governments is considered criticism of Islam. In the end, dissenters are silenced and oppressed, Ebadi said.
She noted that the U.S. supports some of these governments, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Ebadi said there are groups of modern Muslim individuals who do believe that Islam can progress while respecting human rights.
"This is a happy occasion and should be celebrated by all Muslims. This group does not have a headquartered office, but they do in their hearts," Ebadi said.
She said that human rights are part of all religions and cultures, and should be even more prominent in the religion of Islam.
"Islam is the religion of adversity and equality," Ebadi said.
She said the world will not experience peace until all societies respect human rights, when no one individual experiences poverty, oppression or discrimination.
"A globalization where there is compassion, where the pain of others are felt by each one of us," Ebadi said.
German, Tunisian sentenced in synagogue attack
By VERENA VON DERSCHAU
PARIS (AP) — A French court sentenced a German convert to Islam to 18 years in prison Thursday for his role in the bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia that killed 21 people nearly eight years ago.
Christian Ganczarski, 42, maintained that he had nothing to do with the attack on the Tunisian resort island of Djerba. However, the French court ruled that Ganczarski gave the "green light" to the Tunisian suicide bomber who carried out the attack.
Prosecutors said the April 2002 attack was carried out on the orders of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who is being tried in absentia while he remains in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay where he is being held for his role in the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
The brother of one of the Tunisian suicide bombers, Walid Naouar, received a 12-year sentence for having provided material help for the attack.
Judith Adam-Caumeil, a lawyer for the families of 14 of the German victims, said she was "satisfied," even though the sentences were less the prosecution had sought.
"Justice has been rendered in all its dignity and we are relieved," said Catherine Christiaens, the daughter of a French retiree who perished in the attack.
Sebastian Bono, Ganczarski's lawyer, said the sentence was not acceptable and that he would consider appealing the decision.
To the end, Ganczarski denied that he had committed any crime. "I am innocent," Ganczarski told the court Thursday before deliberations on the verdict and sentencing began.
The prosecution had presented a video showing Ganczarki with Osama bin Laden in January 2000, as well as a tape of a phone conversation in which Ganczarski is said to have given his blessing to the attack.
French prosecutors had said Mohammed ordered the attack that also killed five Tunisians and two French nationals. The death of the French prompted the investigation and trial in Paris.
Prosecutors also said phone taps by German police show that 24-year-old Nizar Naouar, the suicide bomber, sought Ganczarski's blessing for the attack before it was carried out.
Prosecutors contended Ganczarski was in contact with top al-Qaida officials, including bin Laden, during trips to Afghanistan and worked with the network as a computer expert.
In addition, French investigators said the suicide bomber also called Mohammed in Pakistan by satellite phone on the day of the attack. Prosecutors contend that Wahid Naouar knew an attack was planned and bought the phone that his brother used.
A month after the Tunisia attack, a statement carried in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds said the attack was carried out by the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Sites.
The group had also claimed responsibility for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. U.S. investigators have long linked the Islamic Army to al-Qaida.
Mohammed has told interrogators he was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he proposed the plan to bin Laden as early as 1996.
Austria debates democratic credentials of its Islam teachers
Austrian politicians and media are in uproar over a recent survey that said a fifth of all Islamic religious education teachers here hold anti-democratic views.
In the survey of 210 teachers, conducted as part of a PhD thesis, 21.9 percent agreed with the following statement: “I oppose democracy because it is not compatible with Islam.”
The public debate has worn on without asking a few crucial questions, such as how representative these findings are, how thorough the survey was and whether the questions steered the answers.
(Photo: A Muslim woman and a far-right election poster saying “Now it’s about us Austrians” in Vienna, 18 Sept 2008/Dominic Ebenbichler)
Instead, only days after the survey appeared in the weekly magazine Falter, the education ministry unveiled a five-point programme to be implemented by the Islamic Community overseeing the teaching of Islam.
Children in Austria can choose to study their own religion at school. Lessons are funded by the state and, until now, teachers were not required to have any formal education. Now, among other measures, Islamic religion teachers will have to sign a contract stating their adherence to democracy, human rights and the Austrian constitution.
“No teacher- in any subject, and of any religion — should express undemocratic opinions in Austria’s schools or disdain our constitution,” said Education Minister Claudia Schmied of the Social Democrats.
Members of Austria’s far right Freedom Party, which scored 17.5 percent in the Sept. 2008 elections, extrapolated the findings to the Muslim community at large. “For years, (politicians) have looked away and acted as if there were no problems with the integration of Muslims,” they said. “It is high time that the Social Democrats wake up out of their multicultural dreams.”
The author of the survey, Islam expert Mouhanad Khorchide, 37, said he had feared his findings could be misused by the far-right and Austria’s estimated 400,000 Muslims. The Palestinian-born Austrian citizen held back from publishing them until after the elections, in which the far right nevertheless garnered a record 28 percent of the vote.
(Photo: Muslims protesters pray outside Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral, 10 Feb 2006/stringer)
Khorchide said those saying Islam was incompatible with democracy were often older Islamic religion teachers, many of whom came from countries in the Middle East without established democratic traditions.
In a previous survey in 2007, he found that 97 percent young Muslims between 16-26 years of age in Austria felt that democracy and Islam were compatible. “This shows there is a change in attitude over the generations, younger people think differently, which is actually positive” he said.
Austria’s Greens party has criticised the government for not extending their new plan to teachers of other religions. A question like that raises another one, i.e. how many Austrians overall are dissatisfied with democracy and national institutions if so many vote for far-right parties?
Former British diplomat Henry Hogger was in Vienna this week to discuss two recent Gallup polls debunking some common misconceptions about Muslim communities. One main finding was that the generally higher religiosity of Muslims did not imply a weaker sense of national identity. On the contrary, about two-thirds of Muslims in London said they had confidence in the British government, for example, compared with just 36% of the British public overall.
Hogger pointed out that the formulation of the statement in the survey of Austria’s Islamic teachers could have been misleading – arguably, it already suggests that Islam is not compatible with democracy, something many Muslims might disagree with.
CAIR Welcomes President Obama's Islamic Reference at Prayer Breakfast
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5-- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed President Barack Obama's use of a quote from Islam's Prophet Muhammad in his remarks at Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast.
In his prepared remarks, President Obama quoted the prophetic tradition, or "hadith," which states: "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." That hadith may be found in Sahih Al-Bukhari, one of the most respected collections of the Prophet Muhammad's statements and actions.
"We welcome President Obama's use of one of the most beloved sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and appreciate the desire for religious inclusion and tolerance that apparently motivated his choice of references," said CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor. "This reference, along with the president's ground-breaking statement to the Muslim world in his inaugural address, can only serve to increase respect for religious diversity in America and help repair our nation's damaged image worldwide."
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.
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Iraq's Maliki emerges as forceful nationalist
By Missy Ryan, Feb 5, 2009
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Once viewed by Shi'ite Muslim partners as malleable, and by Washington as a sectarian leader unable to halt bloodshed, Iraq's prime minister has emerged as a nationalist credited with rescuing his country from civil war.
Doubts about Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's durability and political strength have even begun to turn into the opposite -- criticism that he may emerge as a new strongman.
"We will not accept another dictator in Iraq," said Saadi al-Barazanchi, a leader in the Iraqi parliament of the Kurdish bloc, an ethnic group slaughtered under former strongman Saddam Hussein and which fears its autonomy could be threatened by Maliki's calls for a strong centralized state.
Dour yet resolute, Maliki did not himself run in last month's regional elections to pick powerful provincial councils.
But a bloc that he backed scored major victories in parts of the Shi'ite south against the formerly dominant Shi'ite political force, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, setting the stage for Maliki's Dawa Party to do well in parliamentary elections at the end of the year.
Maliki, a little-known politician in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 ousted Saddam, was a compromise pick to lead a wobbly coalition government in 2006.
Born in a village south of Baghdad, Maliki was a student when he became involved in the Dawa party, founded in the late 1950s with the goal of promoting the role of Islam in public life in response to rising secular Arab nationalism.
The party was driven underground after Saddam took power in 1979, and Maliki was condemned to death during his years agitating against Saddam from exile, mainly in Iran and Syria.
Initially seen as a Shi'ite Islamist, Maliki's willingness to put aside sectarianism and quell violence was called into question in a leaked U.S. government memo in 2006, just as Iraq was descending into bloodshed between Shi'ites and Sunni Arabs.
Sunnis inveighed against him for failing to curb Shi'ite militias and many Iraqis dismissed him, and the entire political class, as inept, corrupt, and driven by personal vendettas.
Yet Maliki, who comes across as a disheveled technocrat with his rumpled suit and five o'clock shadow, changed in the eyes of many Iraqis when he took on Shi'ite militias in southern Iraq and Baghdad last spring with U.S. military backing.
He has been strengthened by the sharp drop in violence across Iraq and also by his tough line in demanding a firm withdrawal date from Washington for the 140,000 U.S. troops still in the country. U.S. forces must leave by end-2011.
He has also established tribal "support councils" around the country to broaden his popular base.
SOME FEAR NEW STRONGMAN
But Maliki's growing popularity and confidence have exacerbated tensions with rival Shi'ites and with minority Kurds, who are part of his fragile coalition but who have spoken out against his ambitions to strengthen the central government.
The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, dismissed as "certainly overblown" complaints that Maliki was assuming "dictatorial powers" by establishing the support councils and specialist security forces that answer to him.
Yet Iraqi critics and some U.S. officials in private still warn that democracy is far from firmly rooted in a country -- and a region -- that has known little but dictatorship
Maliki energetically campaigned during the election, promoting a law-and-order message.
Candidates in his coalition, which includes Turkmen and Shi'ite Kurds, seized on his newfound popularity, showing photos of themselves shaking hands with Maliki in campaign posters.
"Definitely we are worried about these big numbers supporting Maliki," said Mithal al-Alusi, a prominent secular lawmaker. "This is a result of the prime minister giving government support to his list," he complained.
Kurds in particular fear an increasingly powerful leader in Baghdad who might be able to shelve their dreams of expanding their semi-autonomous northern enclave.
Mahmoud Othman, a leading Kurdish lawmaker, said he hoped that Maliki's success would bring "greater responsibility regarding the country's problems, especially the problems between his government and the Kurds."
(Reporting by Aseel Kami, Ahmed Rasheed and Waleed Ibrahim in Baghdad, Shamal Aqrawi in Arbil, Sherko Raouf in Sulaimaniya; Editing by Michael Christie and Samia Nakhoul)
Divorces up 10-fold in Indonesia due to greater awareness of women's rights
By Sujadi Siswo
JAKARTA: Greater democracy could be taking its toll on the world's most populous Muslim nation of 230 million people.
More marriages broke down in Indonesia in the last decade - after the country underwent political reform.
And some couples have cited political differences for the divorce.
In a Jakarta Post report, latest figures from Indonesia's Religious Affairs Ministry show that divorce cases have increased by 10 fold.
Out of two million marriages each year - 200,000 were annulled, up from just 20,000, 10 years ago.
Polygamy is the most cited reason for divorce - which officials say could be due to greater awareness of women's rights.
Rights groups have applauded the development which underlines the greater economic independence and higher education attained by Indonesian women.
Editor Upholds Ideology of Iran's Islamic Revolution
By Steve Inskeep
Morning Edition, February 5, 2009· Depending on which newspaper they read, Iranians may be getting very different perspectives on world events. NPR talks to two journalists at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum – one who edits the conservative Kayhan, which backs Iran's regime, and another who has worked for numerous reformist publications, all of which have been closed by the Iranian authorities.
When you reach the office of Hossein Shariatmadari, chief editor of the conservative Kayhan newspaper, the first thing you see are pictures of men now dead.
More than a dozen black-and-white photos hang in a row in the newspaper's lobby. They are of former newspaper employees killed in the Iran-Iraq War.
Shariatmadari is quick to note that Kayhan — which means "universe" or "cosmos" in English — and its staff "defend the ideology of the Islamic Revolution."
When asked about whether Iran's conservatives are united ahead of the upcoming presidential election, Shariatmadari objects to the label.
"I disagree with the word 'conservative' and also with 'fundamentalist,'" he says. "They make us sound like the Taliban."
"We are 'principalists,'" he says — his term for hard-liners who have held ultimate power since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
It's a revolution that Shariatmadari joined: He was a student activist in the 1970s, printing leaflets denouncing the Shah of Iran. He caught the attention of Savak, the shah's intelligence agency.
"I was arrested by Savak and sentenced to life. I was tortured. They pulled my nail … [and used] electric shock," he says.
He was freed when the shah's government fell.
Now, he edits an edgy newspaper full of sarcasm for perceived enemies, including the United States.
Take a Kayhan article about Robert Gates, the U.S. secretary of defence. It claims he made a derogatory statement years ago about Iranians.
Gates and others have been quoted at various times saying there are no Iranian moderates.
Kayhan reinvents that statement as a headline that has never been attributed to the defense secretary: "Gates Says a Good Iranian Is a Dead Iranian."
Shariatmadari says the U.S. and Iran can get along only if one country gives up its identity — which he says Iran will never do.
He predicts that Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will win re-election this year and dismisses speculation that other hard-liners might defeat him.
Maybe somebody will oppose him, he says, but nobody serious.
In this summer's campaign, Ahmadinejad will have many advantages, including the power of hard-line newspapers such as Kayhan.
Hamas are Sunnis!
By Tariq Alhomayed
Khalid Mishal's speech in Iran has led to questions as to whether the leader of the Hamas movement has sufficient political awareness. Mishal's actions have confounded some of the movement's leadership, and provoked those who sympathize with the suffering of the Gaza Strip.
Mishal's actions [in Iran] resulted in Hamas figures publicly responding, reinforcing the belief that there is extreme disparity between the Hamas movement in Damascus and the Gazan Hamas over Tehran which has not provided anything for Hamas and the people of Gaza other than [empty] talk which has benefited no-one.
Ghazi Hamad, a leader of the Hamas movement [in Gaza] responded twice within a two-day period to statements made by the Hamas leader; firstly he explicitly rejected Mishal's call to form a new Palestinian authority to replace the internationally recognized Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO]. Hamad responded saying that "the Palestinian area is not in need of further division" and declared that he did not accept "a widening of the Palestinian division" adding that "we must return to the language of unity."
This is not all, Hamad made a second response after Mishal briefed "the Wali Amr [Guardian] of Muslims" Sayyid Ali Khamenei about the war in Gaza. Hamad said "As Sunni Muslims we do not acknowledge Khamenei as Wali Amr [Guardian] of Muslims."
Dr. Ahmed Yousef, in his role as an adviser in the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that there is "a significant Arab nationalist trend within Hamas that is interested in strengthening relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia." He added that "we in Hamas stress that our Sunni belief is our foundation, we do not want to be tools in anyone's hands"
The question here then is; what has driven some of the Hamas leadership to publicly affirm that their belief is in Arab nationalism and the Sunni [sect]?
It is clear that Khalid Mishal has put the movement in an awkward position; there are those in the movement who believe that Hamas's true strength lies with Iran. It is also clear that some of the Gazan Hamas are more aware of the dangers that lie in the actions of Hamas in Damascus.
Certainly [Khalid] Mishal has gone too far in Iran, and acted with political recklessness by throwing himself into the arms of a Tehran that has given nothing to the Palestinians other than reasons for division. Tehran has turned its back on the Palestinians and the Arabs who have faced a long history of war and bloodshed for the sake of the Palestinian cause.
It is untrue that Hamas has not received an extended hand from the Arabs, which is what is currently being said; for what about the Mecca agreement?
What about Mishal's televised speech following this agreement which Hamas overturned after only a short time [by executing a coup on the Gaza Strip]?
What about Egypt's efforts to promote inter-Palestinian dialogue?
And these are only a few examples!
If Hamas wants to wade into battle then it must assess the consequences, and notify those it expects to stand with it; and if it wants to come to an agreement about elections, then how can it ignore that these elections were a result of the Oslo Accord which the movement does not recognize?
It would be wrong to destroy Hamas, just as it is wrong to undermine the moderate trend within the movement itself, if such a trend exists. It would be a mistake to vacate the stage and allow Hamas to affix the medal of the Palestinian cause upon the chest of those who have not provided anything to it other than [empty] slogans and the regression of the cause back to square one.
Anti-Islam UK teacher sues her gutless bosses for 100 K pounds
February 6th, 2009
London, Feb. 6 (ANI): Erica Connor, head teacher of a London based school, has claimed 100,000 pounds in damage against education chiefs for not protecting her from Muslim school governors. Connor claims her bosses did nothing as a group of Muslim governors tried to force her to change the school curriculum. She claimed that she was harassed over a demand that pupils be taught more about Allah and Islam, the Daily Star reports.
The mum-of-one said her troubles began in 2003 when four Muslim governors were appointed, including convert Paul Martin and Mumtaz Saleem. They started interfering with the schools day-to-day activities. The 57-year-old alleged that they also asked her to link-up school activities with the local mosque, which convinced her to appeal to London’s High Court. The investigating bosses branded her unresponsive to the needs of the faith community. But, Surrey education bosses turned their back when her Muslim rivals branded her racist and Islamophobic. This was racism towards me. I felt that, had I been a Muslim head, things would have been conducted in a different way. I felt that they didnt have the courage to stand by me in this, Connor said.
She told Judge John Leighton Williams that she was horrified by the conclusion, which she believes made her a helpless scapegoat. Erica, who says she is so depressed that she may never work again, reckons bosses should have done a lot more to protect her and New Monument School. Her lawyers are now fighting for damages. (ANI)
Fearful erosion of liberties
By Andrew Shaw, Denver Atheism Examiner, February 5, 2009
Freedom of speech is a big deal here in America. Everyone bangs the drum of just how free we are to express ourselves whenever, and wherever we wish. There is a Free Press, and the levels of literacy are higher than in many other countries. We should be able to share open and honest discussions, across a wide range of subjects without a censor standing over our shoulder, reaching round to place a finger over out lips.
A very simple concept; ‘freedom of speech’ is as much a human right as the biological imperative to air. It is a concept so strikingly obvious that it shouldn’t be a subject of debate. “Can I breathe?” “Yes you can.” “Can I say something?” “Yes you can.” See, not hard is it?
Well, it’s not that simple. There is always a possibility that someone may be offended by what we say. We may talk out of turn, express ideologies which anger them, distress them or threaten their way of thinking. We reside in a country where all people are free to argue. Anyone offended by another person has the absolute right to debate, argue, petition. They also have the option to pursue legal prosecution against slanderous speech. It’s a great system; we all get a go on the soap box. I love the cacophony of America.
It could be argued, in polite terms, that this is a country full of overly vocal amateur enthusiasts. It could be argued that America is ‘all noise’ a fair point. There is a confidence here, borne of the fact that there is unfettered speech. We may be ignored, laughed at, told to ‘go away’ but we are granted permission, simply by being on this soil, to speak freely.
Religious practises; those surreal ceremonies and peculiar observations, are all conducted with equal freedom. We are encouraged to respect the differences of faith, or in the least, by legislation in most States we are informed to tolerate one another.
But there is something that censors us – and it is not the State, as so many conspiracy theorists would assert. It is, in part, the advertisers who are fearful of offending large swathes of the purchasing public, but I’m not talking about them. I am talking of the self censorship that is practised due to fear. This is not a politely mannered fear of causing offence; it is a fear of being attacked or killed.
In 2005 when the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, printed cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammad, there was more than a little violence across the globe. Rightly so, American print and broadcast media covered the story – the resulting embassy bombings, and the murders of people associated with the publication. This violence was requested by certain ‘protectors’ of Islamic faith, Mahmud az-Zahar and Ahmed Akkari (Spokesman of Danish Imams) among the names checked.
So how does this affect us? Well, dear reader, guess which American media outlets printed the cartoons? Which editor stuck his head above the parapet and committed to condemning the violence? Not one. Not one outlet offered a proper explanation of the content of the cartoons. Instead it was expressed that Islam had to be respected to the point of obeisance, and that ‘we should have expected to be punished for being so disrespectful’ how can this be so? Isn’t the situation just off the register?
Is it really true that I cannot draw or publish the face of a man, in which I have no faith or respect, without fear of death? I do not subscribe to his prophecies. I am not a member of his faith. I am prevented from entering his places of worship. In layman’s terms, I didn’t sign up. Yet murderous men refer to this mans teaching’s and condemn me to death for not following the rules of a club of which I’m not even a member.
Denmark is a free, secular state. Like America it has freedom of speech as a right of residency. It is not a Muslim state, and it is not governed by the Imams and thugs who readily offered $1 million for the head of the cartoonist, before seeing the artwork. Perhaps they should have utilized the country’s laws and attempted prosecution against the pictures which they considered offensive? That is an action with which we could argue and defend in a civilised, judicial manner. Instead they resort to murder and Mosque-based calls to violence against all Danes, and any group or individual that supported the cartoonist.
How did America and the rest of the world respond? In the main part, it responded with fear and a reluctant acceptance of thuggery, scared of the bully or afraid to appear racist.
Let’s take a moment for reflection; Islam is not a race. Islam is an ideology, which like every other living and dead ideology, should be open to debate, cross-examination and criticism. No ideology should have unquestioned qualifications, underpinned by the threat of violence. This is a state of affairs made impossible by the sycophants of their thin-skinned prophet, the illiterate rider of a flying horse, married to a nine year old. (Don’t worry, he apparently didn’t ‘touch’ her until she was about 14 and ‘ready’) Muslim apologists simpered that these men were distorting the Koran, but that the Danes were guilty. Commentators, for the main part, condemned the ‘disrespectful publication’ some claimed that it was a bloody mess, in reality, it was bloody simple. Few people, hushed at the time, were given opportunity to point out, that those of us outside the Islamic faith should not have to follow, respect or fear its dogma.
As much as I expect my opinions to possibly offend some people, I expect the fair response of argument, and to perhaps be met with counter evidence and offered the opportunity to defend my stance. I do not expect my head to be severed from my body, or to be murdered on the streets, as were five members of the press throughout Holland and Denmark, as a result of the cartoons publication. (A further 139 people died as the results of riots in Mexico, and 100 similar deaths in North Africa, when reprints of the cartoon were made)
I expect to be treated in a sensible, civilised way. I expect my voice to be free and tolerated, even if despised. Just as I respect the Muslim’s right to believe in their whispy little tales, homophobia and misogyny, I would never dream of visiting pain on them, or offering money for their decapitation. However, it is my right to complain, stamp and make as much noise in the face of such barbarism, without recognising fear, or suffering a censor who would prefer to cower before murderers, both real and rhetorical.
Is the prophet really so insubstantial that he cannot be sketched in fun, or drawn into debate? Can he not withstand a little teasing? One can take from this the image of an angry magician, inflamed by audience members sat at the side of the stage – where they have better vantage to see the wires, smoke and mirrors. Like the majority of people quick to temper we can guess this magician is a coward and a bully with no real self-confidence.