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Islamic World News ( 24 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia Islamic body bans yoga for Muslims

Dallas: Religious briefs: Muslim and Jewish leaders launch dialogue

Hebron (Xinhua)"House of Peace" dispute fuels Jewish-Muslim tensions in Hebron

Kuala Lumpur: Sisters in Islam hits out at ‘tomboy’ fatwa

Sydney Mufti: Let men and women pray together

EC chairman: Islamic Revolution has paved the way for women’s activities

A New (Old) Meaning for Jihad

Jakarta: Govt urged to take firm action against blasphemous website

Police arrests two Christians under black Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Malaysia Islamic body bans yoga for Muslims

November 22, 2008

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia's top Islamic body on Saturday banned Muslims from practicing yoga, saying the Indian physical exercise contains elements of Hinduism that could corrupt Muslims.

The National Fatwa Council, which has the authority to rule on how Muslims must conduct their faith, issued a fatwa, or edict, saying yoga involves not just physical exercise but also includes Hindu spiritual elements, chanting and worship.

"It is inappropriate. It can destroy the faith of a Muslim," Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin told reporters, noting that clerics in Egypt also issued a similar edict in 2004 that called the practice of yoga "an aberration."

Decisions by the Fatwa Council in Malaysia are not legally binding on Muslims, who comprise nearly two-thirds of the country's 27 million people, unless they are enshrined in national or Shariah laws.

However, many Muslims abide by the edicts out of deference, and the council does have the authority to ostracize an offending Muslim from society.

The fatwa reflects the growing strain of conservatism in Malaysia, which has always taken pride in its multiethnic. About 25 percent of Malaysians are ethnic Chinese and 8 percent ethnic Indians, mostly Hindus.

Recently, the council issued an edict banning tomboys, ruling that girls who act like boys violate the tenets of Islam.

Abdul Shukor said many Muslims who practice the globally popular yoga failed to understand that its ultimate aim was to be one with a god of a different religion.

"We are of the view that yoga, which originates from Hinduism, combines physical exercise, religious elements, chanting and worshipping for the purpose of achieving inner peace and ultimately to be one with god," he said.

But yoga instructor Suleiha Merican, who is a Muslim and has been practicing yoga for 40 years, denied there was a Hindu spiritual element to it.

"We don't do chanting and meditation," said Merican, whose father and grandfather were also yoga teachers. "It's a great health science that is scientifically proven and many countries have accepted it" as alternative therapy.

The issue of yoga came into the limelight last month when an Islamic scholar expressed an opinion at a seminar that it was un-Islamic, prompting the Fatwa Council to step in.

Local newspapers have received several letters from Muslims, expressing indignation at the scholar's view, saying yoga is simply a way to maintain health and has nothing to do with religion.

Putri Rahim, a housewife, expressed shock at the fatwa, saying she is no less a Muslim after practicing yoga for 10 years.

"I am mad! Maybe they have it in mind that Islam is under threat. To come out with a fatwa is an insult to intelligent Muslims. It's an insult to my belief," Putri told the AP.

"I think it is easier for non-Muslims to live in Malaysia now than for Muslims," said Putri. She said yoga helped ease the severe back pain she used to suffer from.

There are no figures for how many Muslims practice yoga, but many yoga classes have a sprinkling of Muslims attending.

In a recent blog, social activist Marina Mahathir criticized the council for even considering a yoga ban, calling it "a classic case of reacting out of fear and ignorance."

"Yoga may have spiritual roots but most of us do it for the exercise, both for the mind and body," Marina wrote.

Associated Press writer Vijay Joshi in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.



Religious briefs: Muslim and Jewish leaders launch dialogue

Muslim and Jewish leaders launch dialogue

Dallas - Muslim and Jewish leaders from the Islamic Association of Carrollton and Temple Shalom are confronting anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in a first-ever Weekend of Twinning. The event, which is also taking place at mosques and synagogues across the nation, began Friday. It marks a period of dialogue among Jewish and Muslim communities so they can better understand each other. The dialogue continues through Sunday. Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Association of Carrollton, planned discusses the topic at Temple Shalom in North Dallas on Friday. The event is the result of a resolution passed at the National Summit of Imams and Rabbis held last year. Azeez said the effort is historic and marks an interfaith willingness to accept each other’s faiths and traditions. "We have made a very sincere effort," he said. — Diane Smith

Gay bishop to speak at transgender event

DALLAS — The Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop, is speaking to the Dallas transgender community today. Robinson, who is Bishop of New Hampshire, is attending a "Transgender Conversation" with Dallas Transgender Advocates and Allies. The event is being held from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Dallas Sheraton Hotel, Seminar Theatre at 400 North Olive St. The conversation will allow the group to tell Robinson about the transgender community’s struggle for equality. Robinson will answer questions about religion and its influence on progressive social action. — Diane Smith

Court backs prayers at county meetings

ATLANTA — A federal appeals court has upheld a suburban Atlanta county’s practice of allowing clergy to open meetings with Christian prayers. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 ruling Tuesday allows Cobb County officials to open meetings of its Board of Commissioners and planning commission with the prayers. Cobb County officials said clergy from all faiths are allowed to participate, but lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union contended the invocations are "overtly Christian." — The Associated Press

Bishop evicted from church over back rent

ATLANTA — Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III, the ex-husband of televangelist Juanita Bynum, was evicted from his church over claims he owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent. Attorney Stephanie Frieze of Grimes-Square Executive Inc., says Weeks, the leader of Global Destiny International Ministries, has made no payments since July despite negotiations with the landlord. She says Weeks owes more than $400,000 in rent and fees. Eviction proceedings began against Weeks in early October. Court records show that Weeks tried unsuccessfully to delay the eviction. A sheriff’s deputy came to the Duluth church campus Nov. 14 to carry out the eviction. Weeks’ divorce attorney Randy Kessler says he was unaware of the eviction. Bynum, a popular Pentecostal preacher, author and gospel singer, filed for divorce after the couple had an August 2007 fight in an Atlanta hotel parking lot that landed Weeks in jail on charges that he pushed, choked and beat Bynum. He pleaded guilty to assaulting her, is serving three years’ probation and has completed court ordered community service and anger-management counselling.

— The Associated Press

Napping visitor damages old organ’s pipes

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — This isn’t music to anyone’s ears: The restoration of a church’s 130-year-old organ has been delayed because four delicate pipes were damaged when a visitor napped on them. The 18-foot pipes were among about 50 stored in the basement at First Churches in Northampton during the sanctuary’s renovation. The Rev. Peter Ives estimates the damage at close to $15,000. But he says the organ can be played without the pipes. Ives says the church will not press charges. The homeless man apparently mistook the pipes for rolled-up rugs and slept on them. The congregation traces its history to the 17th century and was home to 18th-century preacher Jonathan Edwards.

— The Associated Press

College settles with religious student group

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Attorneys for Shippensburg University and a religious student group have settled the group’s claim that the school had violated free-speech rights. The Christian Fellowship of Shippensburg University claimed in a federal lawsuit that it had been threatened with being shut down because it requires members to be Christians and its president to be a man. The group said the state-owned university had violated a 2004 settlement of a separate lawsuit over the school’s student code of conduct. In the 2004 case, a civil liberties group sued the university over a student code barring "acts of intolerance" including racist, sexist and homophobic speech. University officials eventually said they would revise the code. The Washington-based Alliance Defense Fund said the latest lawsuit stemmed from Christian Fellowship’s expulsion from campus by the university’s Student Senate in February in a dispute over its membership and leadership requirements.

— The Associated Press



"House of Peace" dispute fuels Jewish-Muslim tensions in Hebron

Nov 22, 2008

By Ma Xiaoyan

   HEBRON, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Tensions between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents have been mounting in the West Bank city of Hebron since the Israeli Supreme Court issued an ultimatum on Sunday for the hard-line settlers to evacuate a building.

Graffiti painted by the Israeli extremists on a mosque to smear Prophet Mohammed outrages the Muslims. Even the Israeli soldiers and police are suffering from small attacks of the settlers.

    David Wilder, a spokesman for the settlers who refuse to be evacuated, told Xinhua on Friday that they are just trying to hold their habitation of the "House of Peace."

    The four-storey building at a upper area that straddles the old city of Hebron and the adjacent Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, is guarded by two Israeli soldiers and two border policemen. Several monitors installed on its roof can surveil every motion nearby.

    "The location is extremely strategic where we are very high and from here the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) can see all around," said David. "For the army, this is a strategic point where they can give better protection to the entire Hebron region."

    The controversial house has been occupied by dozens of Jewish settlers since March 2007, who claim that they have bought the house from its Palestinian owner.

    "We have no doubt of the purchase. We have pictures of him counting the money. We have filmed that," David insisted.

    Yet the owner said he had never received full payment and thus the deal was null and void, according to Palestinian lawyer Emad Hamdan.

    On Sunday, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered that the Jewish inhabitants should leave the house within 72 hours, or the police would be authorized to force them out, a ruling condemned by right-wing lawmakers and settlement leaders.

    Nissim Ze'ev, a lawmaker from the religious Shas party, moved into the building on Tuesday to express solidarity.

    As one of the hard-line residents, David refused to evacuate from the shabby building and called for other families to chain all the windows and weld the doors.

    "Why should I leave my home? We are not thinking of any kind of compromise. We hope to live peacefully in the House of Peace," he said.

    Along the road down to the centre of Hebron lies the Cave of Patriarchs, which is the most contested holy site for both Jews and Muslims as it is said to be a tomb for Abraham and his family.

    As a result, Hebron has been flash point of Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent years. Some 650 settlers live in fortified enclaves guarded by Israeli troops in the heart of the city, home to 180,000 Palestinians.

   Hebron Palestinian residents complained that the Jewish activists frequently attacked Palestinians and their houses.

    "The settlers attack me when I once attended a funeral in the cemetery. We can do nothing with their harassment," Salim, a Muslim resident told Xinhua, adding that "they have no mercy on old people and children. They attack everyone that passes by the house."

    The Israeli government fears that the "House of Peace" might trigger violence between the hardline settlers and the Palestinians.

    The Israeli Defense Ministry said it would avoid the use of force in the evacuation and would try to persuade the settlers to leave on their own accord.

    By late Wednesday, the house was still not evacuated and the settlers' protests grew hotter throughout the city.

    Hundreds of right-wing extremists have already come to Hebron to impede the evacuation, and dozens of them, mostly teenagers, went on a rampage Wednesday night.

    They clashed with Palestinians and desecrated Palestinian graves. In addition, Israeli military vehicles and a police car were also damaged and an IDF soldier injured as well.

    Meretz party lawmakers Zahava Gak-On and Avshalom Vilan called on the defense minister to take action against the violent activists. "The time has come for these settlers to understand that Hebron is not the wild west," said Gak-On.

    Hebron's Palestinian governor, Hussein al-Araj, urged Israeli authorities to halt the settler violence and carry out the court decision.

    "What happened is unacceptable," he said. "The Israelis have to enforce the law and stop the suffering of the Palestinians who are living next to settlers. They have to take the settlers from this house and protect the Palestinians."

    However, Palestinian lawyer Emad considered the tension between Jews and Muslims cannot be avoided unless all the Jewish settlers are evacuated from the area.

    "The solution, the only solution would be the removal of the settlers and the entire settlement from the old city of Hebron," he said.



Sisters in Islam hits out at ‘tomboy’ fatwa

Kualalumpur, Nov 21 — Sisters in Islam today took the religious authorities to task for its fatwa on “tomboys”, saying that it could lead to arbitrary arrests and undue harassment of Muslim women and girls.

In a statement, it questioned the authorities’ definition of “tomboys”.

“A woman with short hair? Wearing pants? Wearing shirts? No make-up? Many Malaysian women sport short hair, wear pants, shirts and don't wear make-up. It is culturally normal for Malaysian women to be body comfortable with each other — many women hold hands, hug their friends or kiss their friends on the cheek,” it said.

“And how do the authorities define 'manly' behaviour? Not gentle and demure enough? Talking too loud? Who would and how could one define and determine whether a woman is a tomboy or a lesbian?”

SIS said the government, political and religious leaders, including the National Fatwa Council, should give more focus to the effort of upholding justice, equality, civil liberty and democracy in Malaysia, which are intrinsic values in Islam.

The movement said it was concerned with the continuous sexist and discriminatory approach towards Malaysian women, especially Muslim women.

“Sexist remarks issued by our parliamentarians, instructions by political leaders for women not to wear high heels and lipstick, giving preference to non-beautiful women to occupy job positions, prohibiting women to sing in public, and now the fatwa on 'tomboys' are all alarming regressive trends.”

SIS said women who do not dress or behave as what certain quarters perceive not as feminine are not a menace to society. “In fact, many of these women hold respectable positions and actively contribute to our society.”

It wondered why the fatwa was only imposed on women, saying that this was yet another example of selective prosecution.

“SIS believes it is not Islam's obsession to police people's morality, find people's fault or to spy on its followers. Islam is also totally against defaming one's character. In fact Islam regards privacy and preserving one's dignity as one of human's intrinsic basic right. Thus any man-made law cannot violate these basic rights enshrined in Islam.”



Mufti: Let men and women pray together

Nov. 21, 2008

Sydney, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The Mufti of Australia wants to allow men and women to pray together in the country's mosques, a break with tradition observers say may anger some Muslims.

Sheik Fehmi Naji el-Imam argues that separating the sexes in mosques is a cultural matter, not a religious one required by the Koran, The Age reports. He plans to propose the change at the Australian National Imams' Council meeting in December.

He told the newspaper he is trying to respond to complaints from Muslim women that the religion discriminates against them.

"It is good to hear the complaints of the sisters, and to try to find some solution to their concerns," he said. "My duty is to propose, to discuss and try to convince. I can't guarantee the outcome." Source:


 EC chairman: Islamic Revolution has paved the way for women’s activities

Nov 21, 2008

Chairman of Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Thursday that Islamic Revolution has paved the way for women’s activities in different fields.

Addressing the Sixth International Female Quran Researchers Seminar, he said that Islam is in no way opposed to women's undertakings provided that they adhere to Islamic dress code (Hijab).

"Today, in the wake of the Islamic Revolution a new movement, which dates back to the Islamic era, has emerged among Muslim women," he said.

Based on official statistics, women have conducted some 6,000 researches on Islamic concepts and history of Islam, he said.

"The figures show how they are initiative and to what extent they can have impact on social issues," Rafsanjani said.

Referring to women's serious attention to Holy Quran, Rafsanjani said that the holy book is the source of mercy and healing for the believers as well as pivot of unity and solidarity for them.

Holy Quran can serve as a source of unity among 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, he said.

Pointing out that women account for half of the population and they should be active in different arenas, Rafsanjani said that the Islamic Revolution has paved the way for their activities. --IRNA



A New (Old) Meaning for Jihad

New book celebrates 19th Century Muslim hero who still unites today


Rhinebeck, NY November 20, 2008: Though the history of the Emir Abd el-Kader is virtually unknown today in the United States, it wasn't always the case. When the Muslim warrior-saint died in 1883 the New York Times, in their obituary, hailed him as "one of the few great men of the century." Abd el-Kader had been a world figure for fifty years. He had skilfully resisted the French occupation of Algeria for seventeen of those, had finally gracefully surrendered and stoically endured years in a French prison, and had gone on to save the lives of thousands of Christians and Europeans by intervening in a Turkish instigated pogrom in Damascus. He was admired and revered around the world for his moral authority, keen intelligence and natural warrior abilities. But it was the independence of his spirit that particularly spoke to Americans at that time; President Abraham Lincoln sent him a gift of Colt pistols and the newly formed town of Elkader, Iowa was named after him. It will sound hard to some ears today but Abd el-Kader earned his place on the world stage by following the dictates of Jihad as he understood them.

Americans saw a kindred spirit in Abd el-Kader's defiance of European imperialism. They also understood his kind of Jihad. They could recognize its merits in the person and deeds of Abd el-Kader and they intuitively understood that its religious underpinnings, though Islamic, had much in common with their own Christian and American ideals. Jihad, as embodied by Abd el-Kader, showed the way of a just war. It preached religious tolerance, the protection of minorities and the humane treatment of political prisoners.

Monkfish Book Publishing Company is proud to announce the publication of Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader: A Story of True Jihad by John W. Kiser. The book has received wide pre-publication praise. Susan Eisenhower said "Commander of the Faithful is one of those dazzling biographies that inform our modern life." Prince of Jordan, Hassan bin Talal, hailed it as a book which "provides Muslims with a much needed antidote to the toxic false jihads of today, dominated by anger violence and politics."

Press Contact: Monkfish Book Publishing Co

Paul Cohen, 845-876-4861,



Govt urged to take firm action against blasphemous website

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government was urged to take a stern measure against whoever had disseminated blasphemous pictures or cartoons of Prophet Muhammad through a website, a legislator has said.

Mutammimul Ula, a member of the Justice and Prosperous Party (PKS) on behalf of the party hoped here on Thursday relating to the `website` which blasphemed Prophet Muhammad through pornographic pictures or cartoons in the website recently.

He said that there are two pornographic cartoons regarding Prophet Muhammad in the website namely depicting Muhammad and Zainab (woman).

"This has really hurt the feelings of Muslims. Police should take stern action against the cartoon drawer and the website owner. Don’t wait until Muslims take the law into their own hands," he warned, adding that this case threatens religious harmony in the country.

Earlier, Communications and Information Minister Muhammad Nuh said the government would take firm action against whoever had disseminated provocative and pornographic materials through websites which had caused anger and unrest in the public.

"The regulation we have now concerned freedom of expression, and electronic transactions and criminal code, ban on dissemination of business or SARA (tribe, religion, race and inter group)-related conflicts.

"If something is banned, it means that there will be a legal consequence," the minister added.



Police arrests two Christians under black Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan

November 22, 2008, 8:08

Toba Tek Singh (Jawad Mazhar for PCP) City Police of the District Toba Tek Singh in Southern Punjab Province of Pakistan arrested two Christian men who were allegedly accused of committing Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in a raid on a village of Tehsil Gojra on Tuesday Nov 18th.

Police sources said that Rashid Masih and Baboo Masih were booked in the year 2007 under section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on the charges of desecration of posters containing the name of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on the eve of Eid-Miladun Nabi (Birthday of Muhammad (PBUH). Both accused Christian men were at large since they had been accused of Blasphemy under black Blasphemy laws of the country.

It is pertinent to mention that the local Christian of the Tehsil (Administrative division) Gojra of the district Toba Tek Singh said that both the Christian men are totally innocent and they were implicated into this case by the Muslim neighbourhood to settle their personal enmity.