SYRIA: Secret Muslim world of sexy women's lingerie
Why not Islamic banking for India too? By G Sampath,
First Islamic-Catholic Forum held in Vatican
La Herradura (South of Spain): Iran Is Going Mad
Kabul: In Afghanistan, Islamists' influence widens
Victoria: No compromise with Islamists who stone girls to death
Knowledge is not a closed and fixed Salafi circle (1) by Ahmad Al-Hubeishi
London: Jail query on radical cleric
Iran aims to establish Islamic studies departments in UK universities by Tony Grew
Need to reform the madrasa system in India by M. Burhanuddin Qasmi,
London: Muslim delegation to visit Turkey
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
No compromise with Islamists who stone girls to death
Kate Heartfield, November 09, 2008
Last month, the Islamist thugs who control parts of Somalia dragged Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, kicking and screaming, into a stadium and before a crowd that, according to reports, numbered in the hundreds.
They buried her up to her neck -- a terrifying experience in itself -- and put a sack on her head. The crowd threw rocks at her. At least once, they pulled her out of the hole to see if she was dead yet. When some outraged onlookers surged forward to save her, the guards opened fire, killing a boy.
The first reports said Aisha was 23. A few days later, Amnesty International and others reported she was actually 13.
The judge of the Sharia court said Aisha admitted adultery and asked to be stoned to death. As to the nature of her supposed crime, the details are hazy. Amnesty's sources say she was raped by three men.
Her sister said the execution was un-Islamic, in part because the law requires four witnesses (male, of course) to swear to the adultery before the woman can be killed. I can't see how that's pertinent.
The question isn't whether she was "guilty" of having sex outside of marriage; the question is what kind of society thinks that should be punishable by bloody torture leading to death.
Just in case you come from a Judeo-Christian tradition and are feeling smug, let me remind you that the Old Testament prescribes stoning for any number of offences, including adultery. And for being a woman who fails to present bloody sheets after her wedding night. And for working on the Sabbath. And for being a gluttonous drunkard. If Canada decided to start following the precepts of the Bible, the necessary massacre would leave very few people standing.
This is why fundamentalist theocracies are so dangerous. They turn societies into macabre circuses. This is why the Taliban must never be seen as a mere political faction like any other. And this is why al-Shabaab, the dominant incarnation of Islamism in Somalia today, scares the hell out of me.
It began as a militant wing (literally, "the youth") of the Council of Somali Islamic Courts. Al-Shabaab gained control of Kismayo this year, just months before Aisha was executed there.
Nonetheless, many analysts are calling some form of Islamist government the only hope for Somalia now, especially if the moderates can be distinguished from the radicals and encouraged.
And as much as it pains me to admit it, those analysts might be right. The alternative is a puppet government that is weak and despised, because it is associated with American imperialism and the Ethiopian invasion.
Any option that could bring stability to Somalia, and perhaps reduce the piracy that threatens international security, can't be dismissed.
Many commentators stress the distinction between al-Shabaab and the broader and more moderate Islamic Courts. Ugandan journalist Charles Onyango-Obbo has expressed the hope that if the Islamists were to form Somalia's government again, they might curb their sponsorship of terrorism.
Maybe, for a while. Or maybe not. And even if the Islamists could take power and manage not to breed any hijackers, does that mean that we -- the human race, that is -- are willing to accept more stoning of women in exchange for the promise of less terrorism and piracy?
The Taliban once seemed to be bringing stability and order to Afghanistan, despite their brutality.
A decade ago, the U.S. was called callous and self-serving by human-rights activists for turning a blind eye to the Taliban; now, the U.S. is criticized as imperialist for trying to keep al-Shabaab out of power.
In this case, I tend to side with the American view, even if I disagree with American methods, which have likely radicalized the moderates and turned Somalia into a hot zone for the global jihad.
An al-Shabaab or even an Islamic Courts government would be dangerous to Somalis, to the Horn of Africa, and to people in the rest of the world who'd like to go about their business without getting blown up.
Of course, it isn't easy to defend the status quo in Somalia either, where piracy, barbarism, hunger and terror are making life unlivable. There was a wave of suicide-bomb attacks in Somaliland and Puntland last week.
Unless the Obama administration can pull a rabbit out of its foreign-policy hat, Somalia is going to go from awful to worse, really fast.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008 Source: http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=9407052b-ac26-49b6-b3dd-14b14a2cfd53
SYRIA: Secret world of sexy women's lingerie
“Look within your culture to discover the unexpected. What it might be hiding from you can give you a shock.”
That is how designer Rana Salam ended a talk about her book of undergarments, “The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie," at American University of Beirut.
"Secret Life" takes readers on a tour of the hidden intimacies and gaudy traditions of an outwardly rather conservative Arab country.
Photo_009Salam (right) told listeners at her talk that “flamboyancy and excitement” characterized her three-week visit to Damascus to research the book. Walking around the old traditional marketplace, taking in sights of flashy and exotic undergarments, made her wonder if anyone living in a Muslim country would dare wear them.
Shortly afterward, she was shocked to learn that five to six factories in Damascus alone produce one of the country’s most sought-after exports, sold in markets in the Persian Gulf and North Africa.
Made with Chinese toys and other accessories, the collection of underwear Salam gathered includes bras and G-strings decorated with coconut shells, television remote controls, glow-in-the-dark toys and singing birds as well as edible lingerie with a variety of flavours.
Salam called them works of art.
She said she visited the factories as attempt to “get into the brains of these designers, to know where all the creative ideas are coming from.”
Photo_041_2As she put it, “These are people who lack basic education about design but tend to produce one of the most creative pieces of work my eyes ever witnessed.”
When asked about her favourite pieces, Salam excitedly pointed out two: The first resembles a nest filled with singing birds, and the second is a curtain shaped bra that opens and closes by remote control.
A graduate of Britain's Royal College of Art, Salam has been running her own London-based design studio for over a decade.
She is well known for employing Middle Eastern popular art and culture in her work, merging it with the latest design technology to create unique visions.
— Khaled Hijab in Beirut
Why not Islamic banking for India too?
G Sampath, 09 November, 2008
The only reason I have an account in a conventional bank is to encash my salary and file income tax returns. Whatever interest accrues on my deposit, I give away to charity," says Faizy, 54, a mathematics professor at Mumbai's AP College of Commerce.
"I get many calls from banks offering loans, but I refuse them because Islam prohibits the charging or paying of interest," says Ayaz Barudgar, 38, a businessman from Santa Cruz. Barudgar takes 'loans' by mortgaging gold ornaments with an Islamic co-operative society which extends credit without charging interest.
Faizy and Barudgar are among innumerable Muslims who stay away from the conventional banking system. It is precisely for this reason that the Raghuram Rajan Committee on Banking Sector Reforms in its report had recommended introducing Islamic banking in India, creating a flutter of excitement in the Muslim investment community. Rajan, who earlier this week was appointed economic advisor to the Prime Minister, prefers the term 'interest-free banking' instead of 'Islamic banking'. "Interest-free banking offers a set of new contractual possibilities that may bring hitherto excluded citizens into the formal financial system," he told DNA. "Interest-free banking does not mean charity, of course. It only means that the investor/lendor does not get interest, but gets compensated through a form of profit-sharing."
This involves equity-based financing, and risk-sharing. When a conventional bank extends a loan, it takes zero risk, as the loan has to be repaid with interest irrespective of whether the business succeeds or fails. But under Islamic banking, if the borrower makes a loss, the 'loan' liability is mitigated as the bank will share the loss. On the other hand, if he makes a profit, he'll have to share it with the lender at a pre-determined ratio. This could make a big difference for poor and small entrepreneurs because chances of the borrower falling into a debt trap are less.
Despite the Rajan Committee's endorsement of interest-free banking, India hasn't been proactive in tapping this rich vein of capital, unlike other 'secular' nations. Britain, with a population of less than 2 million Muslims, already has 6 Islamic banks, of which three were set up in 2008. According to estimates, globally, assets worth $300 billion are under the management of Islamic banks at present, and this is set to cross $1 trillion by 2013. "People are starting to see that Islamic banks are not a threat but an opportunity for economic growth," says Ali Ravalia, associate, UK Financial Services Authority (the UK's equivalent of SEBI).
In India, with the world's second largest Muslim population of 154 million, the lack of Islamic banking is a barrier to the flow of substantial funds into the market. "There is at least Rs5, 000 crore of unclaimed interest in Kerala alone. People prefer to put their money in gold or jewellery, which is the worst kind of investment from an economic point of view," says Shariq Nisar, CEO, Bearys Amanah Investment. "I know of at least 300 Islamic societies which accept deposits and lend money, but can't make a business of it because of the Shariah's prohibition of interest. And they are not able to convert themselves into banks because the government will not permit any form of banking without interest. Some of them have collected more than Rs200 crore in interest-free deposits, but they do not have any avenue to invest that money," he says.
Another opportunity is funds from the Gulf. "We are losing millions of petro-dollars which is now eluding a mature market like India and going to smaller places like Malaysia," says Ashraf Mohamedy, MD, Idafa Investments. "But the good thing is that SEBI has now started giving licences for Shariah-compliant portfolio products."
Despite the potential, India has been strangely tentative about introducing Islamic banking. "So far nobody has approached us saying they want to set up an Islamic bank. If such a proposal comes in, we'll definitely look at it," says RBI spokesperson Alpana Kilawala. But why not take the initiative instead of waiting for a proposal? Only last week the RBI took some desperate measures — cutting repo rates, CRR and SLR — to inject liquidity into the economy. And yet here is a huge well of liquidity lying untapped.
"The main problem is politics. Any step to introduce Islamic banking can immediately be interpreted as 'appeasing' Muslims," says Mohamedy.
Politics apart, there may also be regulatory barriers to contend with. Islamic finance consultant MH Khatkhatay identifies two fundamental problems: Firstly, a bank in India cannot raise deposits without promising a specified rate of return to depositors, but under Shariah, returns can only be determined post-facto depending on profit; secondly, banks have to maintain a statutory liquidity ratio (SLR), which involves locking up a substantial portion of funds either as cash, gold or in government securities. "Cash will not get you any return; keeping it in gold is risky as it could depreciate; and government securities are interest-bearing, which is unacceptable under Shariah. These two issues make Islamic banks unviable at present," says Khatkhatay. The other hurdles involve restrictions on equity investment (the primary investment avenue in the Islamic system), and in trading (Islamic mortgages, the main source of revenue for Islamic banks, would be construed as trading under Indian law; see box).
"These are not insurmountable problems," says Khatkhatay. "They can be addressed with some flexibility in regulations." Ultimately it boils down to political will, believes Zafar Sareshwala, CEO, Parsoli Corporation, a brokerage that offers Islamic stock broking services. "If you see this through the prism of Islam, you'll see a problem. But if you see Islamic banking through the prism of economic benefits, you'll see a huge opportunity."
Rajan concurs, "I do think there is a growing market for Shariah-compliant products. The operative issue is that India should be ready for it."
Under license from www.3dsyndication.com
First Islamic-Catholic Forum held in Vatican
The first Catholic-Islamic Forum, which ended two days ago in the Vatican, issued a statement condemning persecution, violence and all forms of terrorism, particularly terrorism in the name of religion.
The first Catholic-Islamic Forum, which ended two days ago in the Vatican, issued a statement condemning persecution, violence and all forms of terrorism, particularly terrorism in the name of religion.
The statement highlights the importance of freedom of beliefs and calls for mutual commitment to create a fairer world, which respects people’s right to practice their religions in private and public. It also stresses the warm spirit that dominated the closed-door talks around religious, social and moral issues.
Addressing 85 participants from several countries, Pope Benedict XVI praised the meeting and described it as “one more step along the way towards greater understanding between Muslims and Christians”.
He said the Catholic-Islamic Forum was the official name of this meeting and that it would be held every two years. He called on Muslims to join Christians in defending joint moral values and human rights.
The pope met with the participants in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, used for grand occasions. He expressed hope the meeting would be an occasion to have dialog and walk toward the truth.
The Muslim Italian delegate Yahya Pallavicini said talks were marked by “rare frankness” compared to any other meetings between different religions.
French Catholic Professor Joseph Maila said sensitive words such as "Islamophobia" were discussed.
Muslim American Professor Sayed Hassan Nasr, warned of aggressive proselytism in the name of freedom.
Participants called for an ethical financial system in which regulatory mechanisms consider the situation of poor and deprived people and of indebted nations.
Overcoming differences, Tariq Ramadam, Swiss born scholar, and Grand Bosnian Mufti and delegation head, Mustafa Ceric, spoke in repeated statements to the press, also in the overflowing "public session" at the Gregorian University in which the common declaration was read which closed the Forum, composted of about 30 delegates per side.
I pledge to "explore the possibility of stabilising a permanent Catholic-Muslim committee to coordinate responses to conflicts and other emergency situations" and to meet every two years in a Muslim majority country on the major points of the Declaration.
The text declared the necessity to act on the world of finance to make it more ethical and on the education of children to make them aware of their religious identity and open to others, besides confirming the defence of live and rights as meeting points.
Other points agreed upon: human, for Catholics and Muslim means "male and female"; religious minorities should be protected and respected; together they must work for spirituality in a "secular and materialistic" world.
And mainly: "Catholics and Muslims are called to be an instrument of love and harmony between believers and all of humanity, renouncing oppression, aggressive violence, and terrorism". In the cordial hearing in the Clementine Hall, at the end of which, he stopped to shake hands and exchange comments with the delegates, Pope Ratzinger stated what he expects from this Forum: even starting from different anthropological and theological visions, "just participating in the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and promoting life", "we can find common ground" for a "world in which differences are pacifically faced, and the devastating power of ideologies are neutralised".
"Persecutions are even more unacceptable and deplorable if they are done in the name of God". And finally; "we unite our forces to overcome all misunderstandings and disagreements. We resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct often distorted images of others that also create difficulty in our relations; we will work to educate everyone, especially children, to build a common future". And we will not limit dialogue "to a group of experts" but we will do it "to benefit everyone".
The forum, which focused on the issue of love for God and the other, is not the only body interested in Muslim-Catholic dialog. But it is the first to be held in the Vatican and to combine such a big number of clergymen and Muslim intellectuals from around the world who belong to different schools and who confirmed they have no political inclination.
The forum came after Pope Benedict XVI sent an open message in October 2007 to 138 Muslim scholars and popes of other Christian churches to invite them to an open dialog.
The catholic delegation included Vatican officials, Catholic researchers in Islam and bishops heading minorities in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Gulf countries.
The Islamic side was represented by an independent union of Muslim thinkers and scholars from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and some western countries.
Benedict XVI also welcomed the new Egyptian Ambassador to the Vatican, Lamia Ali Hamada Mekhemar.
Iran Is Going Mad
By Safa Haeri, November 10, 2008
La Herradura (South of Spain), 9 Nov. (IPS) If you have been strong enough as not go mad from stories we have been subjected in the last months of the presidency of George W. Bush about the maddening international financial and economic crisis, it is not late, just look at what happened in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the past few days:
First, in one of his strongest support of the fanatic President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, Iran’s least popular president, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the Leader of the theocratic regime warns pro reform and independent media as well as private individuals against “too much criticizing the Government”.
Expressing displeasure about the “poisonous atmosphere” the Iranian press and propaganda has created, Mr. Khameneh’i said the atmospheres of negligence, the free flow of criticism against the Government for personal gains and blackening Governments achievements are things that God would not forget easily”.
He also accused some persons of deliberately confusing the public’s mind by drawing a black portrait of the Iranian domestic situation.
Then, the same Khameneh’i surprised everyone when he authorized the staunchly anti-American President to write a letter to Mr. Barak Obama congratulating him over his historic victory in the American president race.
In fact, this is the first time since November 1980, when all relations between Tehran and Washington were cut off following the occupation of the American embassy in Tehran by so called Islamic revolutionary students that an Iranian president writes such a letter to an American president-elect congratulating him for his success in becoming the president of the world’s most powerful nation.
True to his rhetoric, Ahmadi Nezhad, in his letter, makes himself an advocate of the American people by urging the first American of African origin and Islamic backgrounds to “respond to the demands of the neglected American people”.
“I congratulate you because you have been able to win the American presidency race and therefore, I hope that as you promised during your campaign, you would satisfy American people’s demands for a radical change in the United States domestic and international policies”, Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad said in parts of his letter.
Reminding the President elect that the American people has “spiritual tendencies”, Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad then said “therefore, they expect to see their new president use all of his potentials for solving the world’s economic and financial crisis, recover America’s lost dignity, fighting against increasing poverty and discrimination, respect human rights, the sovereignty and independence of other nations, consolidate the principle of family and above all, fights the greed of an insatiable, arrogant minority to dominate the whole world”.
What is interesting is that Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, who became president thanks to last minute massive participation of the revolutionary guards and some electoral manipulations in his favour had, in an interview with the influential Spanish daily El Pais, doubted about the American elections and said that “forces behind the curtain on the White House would never allow a coloured man to became president of the United States”.
Actually, such a letter could not have been sent without prior authorization from the Leader, who takes decisions on all Major Iranian and foreign issues.
Nevertheless, the first salvo against Mr. Obama was fired one day after this historic event by Mr. Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Majles, or the Iranian Parliament, criticizing the president-elect’s statement that Iran’s military nuclear activities “are unacceptable”.
“Changes must be real, of strategic nature. Repeating same old baseless accusations about Iranian nuclear programmes means walking on the same wrong path”, Mr. Larijani observed, referring to Mr. Obama’s campaign slogan of “Change”.
Then came the new open letter signed by 60 Iranian economists and professors of economics at Iranian universities criticizing sharply the economic and foreign policies of the ninth government of the Iranian Islamic Republic, one that they describes them as “harmful to the nation” because being “ideologically-based”.
Whether or not they are among those who Mr. Khameneh’i had presented as “undermining the achievements of the Islamic Republic”, the signatories said what the ninth Government has done in the field of economy is “not sufficient, nor adequate”.
“The result of an ideological-based policy, insisting on enriching uranium against the calls of the United Nations resolutions for suspending these activities have severely harmed Iranian exports and imports and deprived the nation from positive international exchanges”, the professors said in their letter, the third they are writing to Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad.
“The reaction of the Government to international and domestic matters is impracticable and unrealistic. Excessive ideologisation of issues, precipitation in taking decisions, placing action before science, antagonizing fidelity with specialty, refusing any sound analysis of the situation and relying on exact statistics, refusing logical policies and preferring dream works instead are leading to double digit inflation, increasing unemployment, social injustice and ever widening gap between the poor and the riches and a more dependence on oil revenues”, they pointed out.
Would this time the President, and above him, the Leader, be warned and pay attention to the specialists?
Most Iran watchers doubt: “Mr. Khameneh’i has a genuine hate for the educated people, mostly those who have studied modern western sciences. He genuinely believes that those men and women are too westernized in their mind to be trusted. That also explains why he continues to support Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad” although, as shown by the letter of economists, under his presidency, Iran’s economic, political and social situations and conditions have badly deteriorated” one scholar told me on condition not name him.
In Afghanistan, Islamists' influence widens
Taliban-style policies seen on the rise again
By Kim Barker, November 9, 2008
Kabul, Afghanistan — The shop sold jeans and frilly dresses, and on one counter sat dozens of ads of Western women in their bras. But the young men who worked there—most in jeans and T-shirts—said they did not believe such clothing and pictures belonged in their country.
The contradictions, here in the fanciest mall in the capital, show the struggle Afghanistan faces in balancing its new democracy and Islam. The young workers said they believed democracy had brought too much freedom, and based on recent court verdicts and proposed laws in parliament, they are hardly alone.
"The Holy Quran says that women should not wear revealing clothes or dance on TV," said Abid Ali, 24, the store's accounts manager, without acknowledging that Islam's holiest book was written long before TV. "It's for their own good."
As an incoming Obama administration contemplates sending thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan to fight Taliban-led insurgents, the fledgling U.S.-backed democracy in Kabul is suffering growing pains, making decisions that would raise eyebrows in many of the 41 mostly Western nations that have troops here. Human-rights advocates and some Western officials say the government appears to be increasingly influenced by Islamists, seven years after the Taliban regime was driven from power.
The government of President Hamid Karzai faces a delicate balancing act between a deeply conservative and traditional culture in most of the country and the liberal leanings of the Afghan elite and Western donors. And the debate is not just over culture, but how the country is run.
Taliban-led militants, who have been advancing on Kabul, have tried to recruit followers by accusing the government of being pro-West and of allowing liquor, music and Western TV shows to flourish. In the capital, meanwhile, courts have dealt harshly with anyone accused of insulting Islam, and the parliament is considering a law that would establish a vice and virtue department, reminiscent of the Taliban's harsh rule.
"This underscores a trend of expedient capitulation to religious conservative forces in Afghanistan ... in the misguided notion that the government can compete with the Taliban on religious issues," said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director for Amnesty International. "The Taliban are thus imposing their agenda from afar, without having to take Kabul."
In the years after the fall of the Taliban, the pendulum swung toward more liberal policies, but now it seems to be swinging back. Karzai has publicly criticized the West for placing too much emphasis on human rights in Afghanistan. The government is considering negotiating peace with the Taliban—and any agreement with the Taliban could lead to a dramatic rollback of rights, especially for women, human-rights advocates say.
Recent court decisions also have raised questions about the country's legal system, which experts say is rife with corruption and sliding toward Islamic fundamentalism.
A young journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy in January had his sentence revoked by the appeals court last month but still was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, 24, was accused of printing an article from the Internet about women and Islam and showing it to friends. Prosecutors say the article insults the Prophet Muhammad.
Another man, a former journalist and also a former spokesman for the attorney general's office, was sentenced in September to 20 years in prison for paying to publish a translation of the Quran in Dari, one of the official languages in Afghanistan. Other clerics and parliamentarians said the translation contained errors, but most egregiously did not include the original Arabic text, required under Islamic law.
The cases still can be appealed, although Kambakhsh has only a Supreme Court review left. "We will of course be watching carefully," Patrick Moon, the deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said at a media briefing last month in Kabul.
Kambakhsh, who denied he had printed the article, was jailed more than a year ago. Since then, he has shared cells with members of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the drug mafia.
"I saw a person sentenced to 3 years in jail after stealing $4," he said in an interview in Kabul's city jail. "And a kidnapper freed. That's how the justice system works in Afghanistan. That is not justice."
The country's parliament is fundamentalist. A legislative committee is drafting a bill that would require women to cover everything but their faces and hands, prohibit women and boys from dancing in public, and bar girls and boys from playing sports together. Sex between non-married couples would mean 20 lashes for the first violation, followed by 40 lashes and then 80. Music played over a loudspeaker could mean up to three months in jail.
The bill would set up a vice and virtue commission, similar to that of the Taliban, which required women to stay at home and men to grow their beards long.
"This will bring our country again to the Taliban regime," said Soraya Sobhrang, a female commissioner for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. "We need peace in Afghanistan. We need security. We don't need talk about my clothes, or the style of my hair."
But Maulavi Sayed ul Rahman, a conservative parliament member who helped write the bill, said the Taliban was exploiting the new freedoms in the Afghan cities to recruit.
"Women are dancing, women are singing," Rahman said. "Women are playing soccer; women are playing volleyball without covering themselves. Women doing karate—all these things are prohibited."
Rahman said he liked democracy and had visited the U.S. and Europe. There, he said, women could walk down the streets without being harassed or fondled. But in Afghanistan, he complained, 30 to 40 young men waited outside girls' schools to harass pupils on their way home.
Despite the Islamist gains, rolling back the clock on Afghanistan will be difficult.
As Rahman walked through the parliament building to get a copy of the bill, he passed young women laughing, wearing head scarves that did not entirely cover their hair and jackets that reached only to their hips. He stepped into the elevator, where the Barbra Streisand song "Woman in Love" was playing.
Many analysts and Western observers hope Afghanistan will find a middle road between influences from the West and Islam, which will always be part of the governing equation here.
Mujahid, 31, a cosmetics shop worker who, like many Afghans, has no last name, said he would never grow a beard like those required by the Taliban. But he also did not think Afghanistan should abandon its culture.
"If there is no music on TV, no one will watch TV," said Mujahid, whose name means Islamic fighter. "There should be music, dancing and everything else. But within limits."
Knowledge is not a closed and fixed Salafi circle (1)
In his valuable study on the position of some Islamist groups in the west, which was published by the Al-Arabi, a Kuwaiti magazine, in May 1992, the Islamic Thinker Hussein Ahmad Amin established a historical comparison between this position and other similar positions in other religions. He pointed out that the historical experiences signalled the emergence of solitary religious groups in several communities.
The author added that these groups intend to close the doors before them, live in isolated places and avoid liberalism or communication with scientific and intellectual currents seen by their communities at various times.
Amin clarifies his idea in detail, saying, "This is what has happened in the Islamic world at the very beginning of the 1930s when Islamist groups began promoting a call, which is totally different from that of Islamic moderators, and also known as followers of Tahtawi and Mohammed Abdu. They view those moderators as heralds, who promote westernism and secularism as they don't criticize the western values, but rather impersonated them for Islam."
Amin adds, "Generating their initial support from the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, those Islamist groups went on to say that Islam alone is able to confront the above-said challenges without any need to get quotes from other civilizations. However, they only succeeded in highlighting some points and issues they focused on and repeated many times. By these issues, I mean usury and bank interests, appearance of women in public and birth control. They avoided using methodologies of scientific and historical researches in human sciences." According to those groups, the concept of knowledge and information is stable and immortalized, thus producing there findings:
First: According to these Islamist groups, knowledge is no longer a creative and dynamic element in the field of intellectualism. As a result, this contributes to repressing any free intellectual activity under the pretext that it violates the Salafi ideology.
Second: Viewing knowledge as a closed and fixed circle makes it difficult for one to accept or create new knowledge unless it is documented in the old Salafi thought.
Third: The means of acquiring knowledge is to compile it from ancestors' books or any modern books with cited quotes from the ancestors'. These groups don't promote excerpting experiences and free thinking. All these consequences produced a wrong picture among non-Muslims that Islam will have no prosperous future as long as it is unable to cope with developments.
In this context, Dr. Ishaq Al-Husseini in his book "Muslim Brothers" and Ghazi Al-Tawba in his book "Contemporary Islamic Thought" noted that Hassan Al-Banna, Abdulqader Awda and Sayed Qutb, who were assassinated or executed, were more adherent to Salafism and desirous of violence.
Liberal approach to modern though
On the contrary, the Brotherhood School in Syria, represented by Mustafa Al-Sayai, Mohammed Al-Mubarak and Maaruf Al-Dawalibi, demonstrated a liberal approach toward the modern thought. Both Al-Sayai and Al-Mubarak participated in the parliamentary elections in the 1950s and led the Islamic Socialist Front at the Syrian Parliament in 1959.
The Top Guide of Muslim Brothers in Syria authored his famous book "Socialism of Islam" in the same year. The Jordanian School, however, moved toward violence in the 1950s following the crackdown on Muslim Brothers in Egypt over an assassination attempt against former Egyptian President Jamal Abdul naser in 1954.
At that time, Taqi Addin Al-Nabhani founded what was called "Islamic Liberal Party", stressing the necessity of establishing the Caliphate State before reforming the political, economic and social situations in the country. Other various groups, derived from the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, moved toward thinking and violence.
Jail query on radical cleric
November 10, 2008
A LONDON Islamic group says radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, has been arrested again.
It is five months since the Palestinian-born cleric was freed on bail by a British court.
"British police on Saturday morning detained Brother Omar Mahmud Abu Omar (Abu Qatada)," the Islamic Observatory said on its website.
British authorities did not confirm the arrest.
"We cannot comment at all. He is covered by an anonymity order," Britain's Home Office said.
Abu Qatada was born in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. He arrived in Britain in 1993 on a forged United Arab Emirates passport and was granted refugee status the next year.
He was arrested in October 2002 and spent 2½ years in a high-security prison in London.
He returned to jail in August 2005 as part of a crackdown against Islamist extremism after the previous month's London bombings. AFP Source: http://www.theage.com.au/world/jail-query-on-radical-cleric-20081109-5kxx.html
Iran aims to establish Islamic studies departments in UK universities
By Tony Grew • November 10, 2008 - 6:00
Institutions funded by the British taxpayer could be used to promote the extremist, homophobic, racist, and violent interpretations of Islam used in Iran.
The Tehran Times reports that Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology "feels the necessity to help establish and strengthen departments of Islamic studies."
"The ministry is currently studying proposals by numerous world academic centres and universities including several universities from Britain, the United States, and Germany," an official from the cultural department of the ministry announced last month.
"The departments will be set up to train and educate experts on Islam so as to assist in the introduction of Islam and its realities to the world in a proper academic setting," he explained.
"The ministry’s International Scientific Cooperation Office is in charge of the issue and is to pursue the case to help establish new departments, provide the necessary articles on Islam, and dispatch scholars to the centres."
Under Sharia law as enforced in Iran, gay sex is illegal, with the death penalty for offenders.
The vast majority of executions of juvenile offenders take place in Iran, where judges can impose the death penalty in capital cases if the defendant has attained "majority," defined in Iranian law as 9 years old for girls and 15 years old for boys.
Iran is reported to have executed at least six juvenile offenders so far in 2008. More than 130 other juvenile offenders are currently sentenced to death.
In 2005 Iran sparked international outrage when it publicly executed two teenage boys.
Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were hanged because according to the regime they were rapists, however gay campaigners insist the boys were killed under Sharia law for the crime of homosexuality.
At first it was claimed by Iranian officials that they were aged 18 and 19.
The best evidence is that both youths were aged 17 when they were executed and therefore minors, aged 15 or 16, at the time of their alleged crimes.
Iranian human rights campaigners estimate that 4,000 gay men have been executed since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has expressed alarm at the possible talks to establish, fund and send clerics to Islamic Studies departments across the UK.
Glyn Gaskarth, a Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
"Universities funded by the British taxpayer should not take money or academic direction from totalitarian Islamist regimes like Iran.
"The prospect of the Ayatollahs setting the Islamic studies curriculum is chilling and would not be conducive to the tolerant Britain we all want.
"The government must not let taxpayer-funded British universities become mouthpieces for the Iranian regime’s warped version of Islam."
Need to reform the madrasa system in India
By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi,
There is a famous idiom “bad news travels fast”, it clearly befits the false propaganda that Ulema have prohibited Muslims from learning English and modern sciences. It is a lie repeated over times by the propagandists to sell their agenda to the commoners.
As far as my knowledge goes, I have never seen any decree or action that may support this claim. On the contrary, the fact is that the Ulama who issued fatwa of jihad against the British, had never prohibited people from learning English as a language. Shah Abdul Aziz (1746 -1823 CE), son of Shah Waliullah, who issued the first fatwa approving arm struggle against British rule in 1803 CE said, “go and learn English, it is allowed.” Sir Syed himself quoted this sentence in his book ‘Asbab-e Baghawat-e Hind’.
Similarly, Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi, founder of Deoband’s Darul Uloom not only wished to learn English but also he regarded modern sciences to be very helpful for madrasa students:
“Having completed the course of Darul Uloom Deoband if the students go to acquire the knowledge of modern sciences it will help them become perfect.” (Sawaneh-e Qasmi 2/281)
Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri, one of the leading Deoband alumni, studied modern philosophy and encouraged his students to do likewise. Maulana Syed Hussain Ahmad Madani who was although vehemently opposed to British colonialism, he stressed the need to study modern languages for the purpose of telling others about Islam. Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, another stalwart of the Deoband School, viewed that madrasa students should also have general education till the Bachelor's degree level. And above all Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked some of his companions like Zaid ibn Sabith (ra) to study foreign language and arts as Dawah and defence strategy.
Objectives of Madrasas in post-1857 era
To me the revolt in 1857 is a turning point for India where a history ended and a new one began. Since Muslims were in the forefront of this struggle that was branded by the colonial masters ‘a mutiny’ therefore, they faced dire consequence after the British army had defeated them. Apart from cleansing of Ulama, Madrasas and Islamic institutions were pulled down. The British did not leave even a single madrasa in Delhi, which once had one thousand Madrasas during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Tuglaq. The endowments and properties of Waqf on which the Madrasas of those days depended financially were confiscated. So the educational institutions that survived British destruction remained closed and were later perished due to the devastating policies of the government. The Ulama who escaped British tyranny remained scattered and got mired in their problems.
After successive defeats since the ‘first war of India’s independence against British in 1857 prominent leaders of the freedom movement especially Ulama found it hard to save India from the cultural onslaught of the British. Side by side with the victorious British army Christian missionaries were active propagating their faith. Thus the Ulama came out with a strategy and established a new set of Madrasas starting from Deoband in 1866.
Madrasas are of late the traditional seats of Islamic learning. The primary objective of a madrasa is to educate individuals with authentic Islamic knowledge and outlook towards life and society with an achievable aim at the ultimate life— hereafter. Source bases of Madrasas are the teachings of the Glorious Qur’an and the Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad.
Simply speaking, the post-1857 Madrasas were to produce scholars and Ulama who can appropriately respond to the religious challenges and work as missionaries and leaders who can explain religion in a contemporary idiom suitable to the present era.
Scholars must seriously ponder over, if the present-day Madrasas are really in tune with the aforesaid objectives of the Madrasas; if not why so, and if yes how much they have been successful?
Required reform and possibilities
In India today, there are basically three types of Madrasas: (1) those controlled and sponsored by the states like in Assam, Bengal and Bihar etc, (2) those that follow a revised and redeveloped curriculum like Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, Jamia Salfia, Banaras, Madrasatul Islah, Sarai Mir and Jamiatul Huda, Jaipur etc and (3) those that follow the traditional Dars-e Nizami curriculum like Darul Uloom Deoband, Mazahirul Uloom, Saharanpur, Jamia Ashrafia, Azamgarh and so on.
When people speak about ‘modernization’ of Madrasas they generally mean the third type of Madrasas which are large in number, spread across length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent and are actually the only ones trying, rather claiming to fulfill the aforesaid objectives of post-1857 Madrasas. These Madrasas have a long history and with reasonable good production capacity and exercise a very great influence over the Muslim society across the world.
Dars-e Nizami system was considered dynamic and thus prescribed as curriculum for the Madrasas nearly one and a half century ago which undoubtedly helped the community. But a century has passed since then and should we really not need to look in to it seriously and go through an honest introspection with prevailing conditions around us? Dars-e Nizami itself had undergone numerous changes in the past but this process is not quite the same today.
In these Madrasas, 'Greek' logic and philosophy, which deal with many issues that are no longer relevant and replaced by modern philosophy and other disciplines in Greece itself, is still a part of mainstream curriculum. Our Madrasas are stuck in the medieval jurisprudential (fiqhi) framework. No serious attention is paid to modern economic and socio-political issues that the human being face on regular basis or at least these issues have not been considered as part of curriculum so far. In the existing syllabus too much time is spent on the rules and intricacies of Arabic grammar, ignoring the teaching of the language through the more effective and less time consuming direct method. Furthermore, Farsi, a language no longer used in Indian subcontinent still exists a part of primary and in some cases secondary syllabus and Hindi the national language, English the international language and even local languages like Tamil, Telgu, Gujarati, Bengali and Assamese, unfortunately, get very little attention.
These are the areas where madrasa management and scholars can surely and I say must offer alternatives. I am not among those who support government sponsorship for Madrasas or go with politicized sloganeers for ‘madrasa modernization’. To me the very definition of modernization is still debatable— it varies with prospects and differs from person to person. Nevertheless, a huge vacuum is already in the system and without any outer influence it needs urgent attention from the system mangers themselves.
Imam Muhammad (rah) used to walk around the market to explore new dealings and their explanation in Islam, today’s Ulama also should know the developments that are taking place in the field of business and economy. The modern age has brought about so many complex and unique ways of dealings that are beyond the reach of present-day Fiqh books taught in Madrasas. The present capitalist world economy is of late sliding towards a virtual collapse. Some people say Islamic system of economy may offer an alternative structure of economy to the world but are the madrasa graduates – present Ulama – really capable to seriously think about it. If not then who should do it?
The new political and economic theories have divided the world into two opponent groups. Every underdeveloped and developing country is battling the two theories – capitalism and socialism. Ulama and Muslim intellectuals should come forward and offer the third option before the world with sound logic and wisdom. But to offer a new theory one must know the present ones in detail and then only one can compare the two honestly and offer a wise solution. Are our madrasa graduates capable of making an honest comparison between existing political and economic systems?
To me present-day Madrasas need some urgent changes keeping intact with the founding ideologies and objectives in all three faculties – methodology of teaching, framing revised curriculum with children’s psychology, and considering modern day needs and management. And these can be started without any outside help, if not desired, with whatever scholarship and resources available within the madrasa – Insha’Allah.
(M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is a Darul Uloom Deoband graduate and Director of Markazul Ma’arif, Mumbai. [http://www.markazulmaarif.org]) Source: http://www.indianmuslims.info/news/2008/nov/08/need_reform_madrasa_system_india.html
Muslim free speech protection call
Governments across Europe must do more to protect people of Muslim backgrounds who face threats and attacks from militants for exercising their right to free speech, a report said.
The report from the UK-based Centre for Social Cohesion think-tank highlighted the case of 27 politicians, authors, journalists, activists and artists across the continent who had been targeted with violence and intimidation because of their comments about Islam and cultural practices associated with the religion.
And it warned that official failure to offer victims the protection they needed had left "significant numbers" of Europe's ethnic minority citizens unable peacefully to express themselves and created the impression that more Muslims were opposed to open debate and free speech than was actually the case.
It is the duty of European governments to protect the freedom of speech of all citizens, regardless of race or religion, and to pursue and prosecute those who try to use threats to silence them, the report, entitled Victims of Intimidation, said.
"Through doing so, European governments will be able to promote greater religious and social harmony by demonstrating that they see Muslims and those of Muslim background as full and complete citizens, neither restricted in their freedoms nor unduly permitted to issue threats against others," the report concluded.
Among the cases highlighted were those of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, who lived in hiding from death threats for a decade and Maryam Namazie, who received threats to her life after setting up the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain and denouncing the veil.
The report also discussed the case of pop singer Deepika "Deeyah" Thathaal, who says she has been threatened, spat at and attacked with pepper spray for videos which show her dancing suggestively with a man and taking off a burqa to reveal a bikini underneath.
Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion and author of the report, said: "The inalienable right to freedom of speech and expression has come under threat by Muslim extremists. Fellow Muslims are finding it increasingly difficult to criticise elements of their faith or culture without fear of significant reprisal.
"In a free society, no belief or set of values should remain beyond open criticism. To grant a belief system amnesty from discussion concedes that intimidation and violence can succeed.
"Unless Muslims are allowed to discuss their religion without fear of attack there can be no chance of reform or genuine freedom of conscience within Islam."
British Muslim delegation to visit Turkey
LONDON (APP) -- A delegation of prominent British Muslims will pay a five-day visit to Turkey from today to meet a range of leading Turkish figures, to build partnerships that highlight positive messages about modern Islam in Europe, and challenge the extremist narrative.
The delegation consist of scholar and author Aftab Malik, Executive Director, Muslim Women’s Network UK, Shaista Gohir, academician Dr .Anas Al-Shaikh, President, Islamic Society of Britain Dr. Zahoor Qureshi, journalist Navid Akhtar and writer and blogger Shelina Janmohamed.
They are visiting Turkey to engage in dialogue and debate on issues of mutual interest to Turkey and UK, to voice support for Turkey’s EU accession, endorsement of the key strategic role Turkey is playing in the region and sharing their experiences as Muslims in Britain today and learn from the experiences of their Turkish hosts.
The delegates in a joint statement said: “We will also discuss the ways our communities can tackle extremists who threaten both our countries. We are looking forward to an open and frank discussion with leading figures in Turkey including community representatives, university students, academics and women’s leaders. We are proud to be representing the diverse range of British Muslim communities. The aim is to build long term bridges between our countries and lasting partnerships with leading figures from communities in Turkey.”
Similar UK Muslim delegations have in the recent past visited a number of countries including Pakistan, Iran and some Middle East countries.