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Islamic World News ( 6 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Obama Appeal in Muslim World May Tone Down Militants

Why Jews voted for Obama By Marc Stanley

Islamists' Rise Could Benefit Women's Rights: Newsweek

Iran's new penal code unfair to women: Nobel laureate Shrin Ebadi

Child marriage and divorce Arwa 9, Reem 12, in Yemen By Jenny Cuffe

British Government Offers Mixed Signals on Shari'a Courts by David J. Rusin

House of Lords challenges Sharia law By Jason Bourne

I Am Woman’ and I want to vote BY Maahum Chaudhary

Jakarta: Indonesia's New Anti-Porn Agenda By Jason Tedjasukmana

Misinterpretations of Islam, hailing from Saudi Arabia, being sold near mosques in Algiers

Islamic group to Pope: Help end Mindanao conflict

Maybank Islamic Introduces Structured Product

Iran issues warning to American forces

Friendly advice from the Islamic Army in Iraq

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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Obama Appeal in Muslim World May Tone Down Militants

By James Ruper, Nov. 5, 2008 (Bloomberg)

Hala Mustafa's friends in Cairo were so thrilled by the prospect of a Barack Obama presidency that they told her to stop wearing red, to avoid looking as if she had adopted the Republican Party colors of John McCain.

``Arabs are very excited,'' said Mustafa, editor of Democracy Review, an Egyptian quarterly. ``People are imagining that he is a Muslim like them and that he is going to bring a new America that is friendly.''

Obama's race, Islamic family roots and promise of change give him an opening to blunt militancy rooted in decades of white colonial rule and sharpened by the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Exploiting that chance won't be simple, given that the president-elect isn't a Muslim, pledged to continue strongly supporting Israel and refused to rule out pursuing extremists in Pakistan.

He will be seen as ``a fellow victim of white elites who has miraculously come to power, a figure like Nelson Mandela'' of South Africa, and thus ``will snatch the initiative from al- Qaeda and the jihadists,'' said Ishtiaq Ahmed, an associate professor of international relations at Pakistan's Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. In the short term, though, Muslims' expectations for Obama ``are much too high to be fulfilled.''

Security Challenges

Extremism will present the new U.S. president with many of his most urgent security challenges: the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, civil wars in Sudan and Somalia, the revival of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Iran's development of technologies usable for nuclear bombs. Israel will elect a government three weeks after Obama takes office, an event likely to shape his ability to pursue a Palestinian peace deal.

Afghanistan today offered a fresh example of the difficulty of battling terrorists without alienating even friendly Muslim countries.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded that Obama stop civilian casualties after an air strike by Western forces hit a marriage celebration near Kandahar yesterday, killing 37 civilians, including 23 children, according to an Associated Press report citing local officials. The attack came after Taliban forces attacked troops near the wedding, AFP reported. The U.S. military said it was looking into the matter.

Karzai's `First Demand'

``We cannot win the fight against terrorism with air strikes,'' Karzai said at a press conference, the AP said. ``This is my first demand of the new president of the United States -- to put an end to civilian casualties.''

Al-Qaeda has noted Obama's potential to make progress in repairing America's reputation among Muslims, damaged under President George W. Bush, said Rohan Gunaratna, director of a terrorism study center at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

``Obama will be able to change the perception among Muslims, even moderates, that the United States under President Bush was attacking not terrorism, but the Islamic world,'' he said. Militants were ``discussing on jihadist Web sites that if Obama comes to power, it will risk a very significant defeat for them.''

Obama's Kenyan father and Indonesian stepfather were Muslim. As a boy, Obama, 47, attended a mostly Muslim public school in Jakarta, though he never adopted the religion. He describes his baptism and commitment to Christianity in his 2006 book, ``The Audacity of Hope,'' and has underscored to Jewish voters that he would be a strong supporter of Israel.

Positive Outlook?

In Iran, which has confronted U.S. governments since its own Islamic revolution 30 years ago, people believed before the vote ``that powerful lobbies will not allow a colored person to become president,'' said Kazem Jalali, a senior member of the Iranian parliament's national-security and foreign-policy commission. Obama's election ``can bring about a positive outlook,'' he said.

``Pakistan and the United States share common interests and objectives,'' Pakistan's Prime Minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, said in a letter to Obama. The letter, released by the prime minister's office in Islamabad today, added: ``I look forward to more opportunities to discuss ways to further strengthen Pakistan-U.S. relations and to promote peace and stability in our region and beyond.''

Gamal Heshmat, an Egyptian leader with the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamist movement in the Arab world, said that his group doesn't pin too many hopes on Obama's presidency.

Fixed Tenets

``There are certain fixed tenets to U.S. foreign policy that contradict the interests of our region and our nation,'' Heshmat said in a telephone interview from Damnhour, a city northwest of Cairo. ``If this policy is to continue only with a softer face, then this is something we do not welcome. The elections will not represent much.''

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that country's political leadership ``welcomes and respects the choice of the American people in electing Sen. Barack Obama as president of America.''

The government has ``a sincere desire'' to cooperate with the president-elect ``to achieve the joint interest of the two sides, preserve the security and stability of Iraq, maintain its full sovereignty and protect the interests of its people,'' the spokesman said in a statement e-mailed from Baghdad.

June Elections

An Obama administration's willingness to drop the Bush administration's veiled military threats could energize moderate Iranians hoping to oust President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in elections next June. Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a self-declared reformist who may run, told journalists last month he welcomed Obama's offer to hold talks with Iran.

``Tehran will be willing to bargain'' if Obama assures the country's ruling clerics that the U.S. won't try to overthrow them, said Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian political-science professor at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad's media adviser, said Iran welcomed the possibility of new policies from Obama. ``His slogan was change. We too believe that change is an inevitable requirement,'' he told the state-run Al-Alam satellite news channel.

In Iraq -- where Obama says he will pull out combat troops by the summer of 2010, in part to focus on the fight against al- Qaeda worldwide -- any new slide into warfare among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions would renew Muslim accusations that the U.S. invasion had brought on the country's collapse.

Careful and Realistic

The continued weakness of the Iraqi state and government means ``leaders will need to be careful and realistic about how quickly they can move'' to reduce the U.S. presence, according to a report last month by Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East and counterinsurgency specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In Pakistan, where Obama says he would authorize U.S. forces to attack Osama bin Laden if the al-Qaeda leader were found there, the civilian government is struggling to contain a Taliban movement along the Afghan border. It has stepped up cross-border attacks on U.S. and Afghan government troops and provided what the U.S. says are new sanctuaries for al-Qaeda.

In July, Obama joined the man who became his running mate, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, 65, in sponsoring a bill to triple U.S. nonmilitary aid for Pakistan to $7.5 billion over five years.

Pakistani political and military analyst Talat Masood said that approach ought to replace the stepped-up U.S. raids, which have radicalized residents and weakened Pakistan's government.

``There is no short-term military solution'' to the Taliban uprising, Masood said, and U.S. efforts should focus on long- term development, leaving the Pakistani military to combat the insurgents.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rupert in Islamabad at jrupert3@bloomberg.net, or Khalid Qayum at kqayum@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: November 5, 2008 12:06 EST. Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&sid=a4dfA.y1010I&refer=india

Photo Caption: President-elect Barack Obama hugs his daughter Malia following his victory speech at his election party in Chicago Nov. 4, 2008. (AFP photo/EmmanuelDunand)

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Why Jews voted for Obama

By Marc Stanley · November 5, 2008

DALLAS (JTA) - This year, once again, the Jewish community overwhelmingly supported the Democratic nominee for president. With the election of Barack Obama, Jewish voters selected a candidate who, despite an unprecedented smear campaign, represents the values of our community.

This year, we also heard the all-too-familiar claims that the Republican nominee would receive a record amount of the Jewish vote. Again, however, this prediction came up woefully short.

In every election cycle for the past 36 years, Republicans offered “sky is falling” predictions that Jewish voters would give significant support to the Republican nominee. A typical claim was when President George W. Bush’s campaign chairman, Marc Racicot, predicted in 2004 that Bush would garner between 30 and 35 percent of the Jewish vote. Despite the Republicans’ history of failed forecasts of the Jewish vote prior to 2004, their delusional claims persisted.

In 2004, the media largely bought into the argument that Bush would receive a significant portion of the Jewish vote. A New Republic piece by Lawrence Kaplan titled “Kerry’s Jewish Problem” typefied the media’s fascination with the prospect that Sen. John Kerry would receive an unusually small portion of the Jewish vote. The media frenzy led many to give credence to Republican claims about the Jewish vote four years ago.

Despite the Republican theory about Jewish voters, results from Election Day 2004 showed the usual overwhelming Jewish support for Kerry. In fact, since 1972, when exit polls were first instituted, the Republican nominee has averaged only 27 percent of the Jewish vote. In recent elections, the Republican nominee has received even less, with Jewish support at 22 percent for Bush in 2004 and 19 percent in 2000, and 16 percent for Bob Dole in 1996. In 2006, the Jewish support of Democratic congressional candidates reached 87 percent.

Nonetheless, the media remained enticed by persistent Republican claims about the Jewish vote during this election cycle. The endless attempt by the media to report the “man bites dog story” led to news articles such as “Obama’s Jewish Problem” (Politico, March 13, 2007) and “Obama’s Struggle to Secure the Jewish Vote” (NBC, May 23, 2008). Again, this year’s supporters of the Republican nominee and members of the media prematurely reported that John McCain would receive a dramatically increased percentage of Jewish support with Obama as the Democratic nominee.

In the early months of the election campaign, the polls projected Obama would receive about 60 percent of the Jewish community’s support. Sensing an opportunity to capture a sizable number of Jewish voters, McCain supporters engaged in an unprecedented campaign in the Jewish community. This campaign not only included efforts to paint Obama as an anti-American Muslim, but it also implied that an Obama presidency could bring a second Holocaust. The campaign was widely criticized and outraged many in the Jewish communities they targeted.

As Election Day drew closer and the Jewish community learned more about the two candidates, polling showed that Obama’s support in the Jewish community increased to between 70 and 74 percent. Ultimately the Jewish community supported the Democratic nominee in overwhelming numbers. According to exit polling from Tuesday’s election, Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote – about 25 percent greater than Obama’s percentage of total support nationally. That exceeded everyone’s expectations.

There are two reasons for this performance. First, Jewish voters took a very close look at both candidates in the final 10 weeks of the campaign. Obama’s performance in the debates belied the GOP narrative that he could not be trusted, while McCain’s pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate undermined his Jewish support.

Second, Jewish Democrats—the National Jewish Democratic Council, along with the Obama campaign and other independent efforts—were better organized than ever.

Every four years, like a broken record, we are subjected to the refrain from Republicans that “this is gong to be the year the Jewish community votes Republican”—but it never proves true. Somewhat prophetically, Ethan Porter of The New Republic got it right last week when he reported that “the fear that Jews might desert the Democratic Party comes up every four years" but "this theory might finally be put to bed.”

Indeed, as it has for the last three decades, the theory that Jewish voters would significantly support the Republican nominee again has been discredited.

(Marc Stanley is the chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council.)

Source: http://jta.org/news/article/2008/11/05/1000800/op-ed-why-jews-voted-for-obama

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Islamists' Rise Could Benefit Women's Rights

Middle Eastern observers often assume that the deterioration of women's rights in the region is directly linked to the political rise and popularity of Islamist parties in countries across the region.

But this guest author argues otherwise. Dr. Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of the Council's Women and Foreign Policy program, argues that the movement of these groups into mainstream politics is actually changing Islamist attitudes toward women.

At first glance, the continued strength of Islamist movements across the Middle East does not seem to bode well for women's rights in the region. Islamists' conservative, traditionalist values and narrow reading of religious texts often translate into policies that seek to limit women's public role, enshrine their legal inferiority and enforce gender segregation. Indeed, Islamists groups in various countries have taken a hard stand against reforming family laws in ways more favorable for women, resisted women's suffrage, and smeared local women's groups as puppets of an illegitimate Western agenda.

But something strange is happening on the way to the sharia court. As Islamist movements make the transition to mainstream political parties, they are increasingly recognizing the need to appeal to women as voters. They also are beginning to understand that their views on women are being closely watched by the broader society. To gain power through the ballot box, Islamist parties have to convince secular skeptics, both male and female, that they are ready to govern and have sensible policies to offer. Islamist policies that smack of creeping "Talibanization," or simply conflict with the reality of modern women's lives, alienate moderates.

Unlike earlier secular reformers, whose policies mostly reached urban-bound elite, the Islamist groups of today have the ability to touch a much broader segment of society. Their embrace of more progressive policies towards women could unleash a true grassroots women's movement with enormous potential for change.

We are already seeing signs of this in Turkey where the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) is arguably furthest along in becoming female-friendly. Despised by hard-core secularists for its attempts to overturn the ban on the headscarf in public places, the AKP has been accused of pushing women's rights backwards in Turkey. The AKP defends its headscarf stance on the grounds of personal freedom. It also deliberately appeals to women by prominently including women's rights in its legislative agenda --including passing laws that impose heavier penalties for rape and honor killings.

In many ways, the AKP's strong Islamic credentials allow the party to address culturally sensitive topics like honor killings more effectively than secular groups. In 2007, it launched a particularly controversial effort to have religious scholars reexamine hadiths - the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad - that have been harmful for women.

Not surprisingly, the AKP enjoys strong support from female voters, many of whom are secular. Without women, the AKP could not have won the 47% of the votes it did in the 2007 elections. Its Women's Wing is active in recruiting female candidates for parliamentary and local elections. With the success of the AKP in 2007, the percentage of women in parliament more than doubled (from 4.2% to 9.1%). The number of women in its central leadership is also high. The AKP began with an informal 20 percent quota for women in its party structure, and increased this to 30 percent in 2006 on the orders of Prime Minister Erdogan. Currently, the party is trying to enlist more women to run for mayor in towns across Turkey.

The position of women in conservative Islamist movements is more complicated. Conservative Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt are more dogmatic and traditionalist in their religious views and generally less accommodating towards women. Although the MB has consistently renounced the use of violence and has committed to work through the political system to bring about change, it is still banned as a political party in Egypt. Yet, it is the most organized and popular of the opposition groups in Egypt. Taking advantage of a political opening in Egypt in 2005, it ran candidates for election as "independents" and won 22% of the seats in parliament.

 

From its founding, the MB has maintained an uneasy stance towards women. Hassan al Banna, the group's founder, demanded strict segregation between the sexes. However, he also encouraged women to work (in socially appropriate fields) and to be educated. Other MB figures such as Sayyid al Qutb had much more overtly negative views of women.

 

Zainab al Ghazali was among the first women to actively support the MB. In the 1930s, she created a woman's organization closely tied with the MB. Al Ghazali embodied all the contradictions of the MB's stance towards women. She would simultaneously lecture women on the need to uphold conservative values while she herself defied all those traditions through her own activism. She even divorced her first husband when he refused to support her work.

Today, as the movement attempts to compete for the middle, it is trying to present a more modern face. An important part of this strategy is to defy its secular critics (who claim the MB will push women back to the stone age) by touting its "women-friendly" policies. They promise to promote the equality of men and women in society and allow women to take low-level positions within the party. They even ran a female candidate in 2005. On their website, the MB highlights all the rights that Islam affords women and condemns practices such as forced marriage.

Critics of the MB see such actions and words as insincere--nothing more than political window dressing. They point to the MB's first political platform, released in September 2007, which denied women (and Copts) the right to be president in Egypt as proof of the group's intolerance and narrow-mindedness. This clause in the platform created a wave of negative publicity for the MB and also triggered a heated debate within the movement itself. When I interviewed members of the MB several months ago in Cairo, there was an apparent break along generational lines. Younger members were upset by the exclusion of women and Copts. Not only did they feel it was an unnecessary provocation and one that tarnished the group's image, they also questioned the religious justification for the exclusion. Young bloggers and Islamic student organizers have continued to press the issue. In a sign of political maturity, the MB has posted on its website criticisms about the status of women within the organization's political structure, Egyptian society and Islam itself. MB members claim that if there were greater political openness in Egypt, the voice of moderates in the party would be much stronger.

At the far end of the political spectrum of Islamist movements are radical groups like Hamas and Hezbollah that have refused to renounce violence, hew to narrow religious interpretations and position themselves as stridently anti-Western. These groups have an even more complicated relationship with women. Twenty years ago, Hamas was decidedly extremist in its approach to women, forbidding displays of women's pictures and condoning attacks on unveiled women. But in recent years, as it has competed politically, it has moderated its positions on women to appeal to more secular Palestinians and female voters. Hamas ran 13 female candidates in the 2006 elections.

As of yet, the increased presence of women in Hamas has not dulled the radical stance of the group. One of its women, Mariam Farhat - dubbed the "Mother of Martyrs" - successfully campaigned toting a gun and bragging about her three children she sent off on suicide missions. But all of the six women elected to parliament vowed to fight for women's rights. Some, like MP Huda Naeem, are trying to put forward more progressive interpretations of Islam and disentangle oppressive cultural traditions from the religion.

Will such efforts begin to chisel away at Hamas' extremism? The answer is almost certainly not in the short-term. But over the longer term, women's push for interpretations of Islam that accommodate an active role for them in society should encourage more moderate views on other fronts. What is clear is that important debates are taking place across the spectrum of Islamist groups about the role of women in society, and these debates hold the potential for a sea change in women's rights in the Middle East.

Dr. Isobel Coleman is senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of the Council's Women and Foreign Policy program. Her work has appeared in publications such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. Her forthcoming book, Paradise Beneath Her Feet: Women and Reform in the Middle East, will be published by Random House in 2009.

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/islamsadvance/2008/11/islamists_rise_could_benefit_w.html

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Iran's new penal code unfair to women: Nobel laureate

Nov 05, 2008

TEHRAN (AFP) — Nobel peace laureate Shrin Ebadi on Wednesday criticised Iran's new Islamic penal code, saying it remains unfair to women and uses an "incorrect" interpretation of Islam.

Iran's parliament in September adopted the outlines of the new Islamic penal code submitted by the judiciary, which is a modified version of the Sharia-based law implemented in Iran since 1982.

"After 25 years we are still repeating mistakes of the first day," Ebadi told a meeting and news conference staged by her rights group on the subject.

"The criminal laws adopted after the revolution unfortunately took away a woman's human identity and turned her into a second-class being who is incapable and mentally-deranged," she said.

Ebadi, who became Iran's first female judge before the 1979 Islamic revolution, deplored the fact that the new law still considers a woman's life and her testimony worth half a man’s.

"Why doesn't the court accept my testimony? Is it because men have four eyes and women only two?" asked Ebadi, who is an outspoken critic of the situation of human rights in Iran.

"These are incorrect interpretations of Islam stemming from a patriarchal culture."

The new Islamic penal code, whose details are yet to be debated by parliament, has been criticised for an increased imposition of harsh punishments such as flogging and execution for a variety of crimes.

Critics also complain about the unchanged age of legal responsibility, which deems a boy punishable from the age of 15 and a girl from the age of nine.

The judiciary maintains that the bill has been drawn up with a focus on "correcting the offender, humanitarian policies, preserving citizens' rights and the use of fair punishments" among other concerns.

Legal experts admit that some positive changes have been incorporated in the new code such as the possibility of suspending or commuting sentences and conditional release in certain crimes such as financial offences.

But they say the law remains inflexible in terms of crimes whose punishment has been defined by Islamic law such as stealing, drinking alcohol, adultery and apostasy which are respectively punishable by amputation, flogging, stoning and execution.

On the other hand, the new law recommends that certain harsh punishments not be carried out if they are deemed as "weakening to Islam."

"If something cannot be implemented why are you putting it in law then?" university professor and legal expert Reza Nour-Bahar asked the conference.

Some critics say punishments ordered by Sharia 14 centuries ago cannot be applied to modern times, arguing that harsh punishments have not led to reduced crime.

"There is not an explicit religious reason to apply Sharia laws for early Muslims to all other Muslims," said Sedigheh Vasmaghi, a professor of Islamic law and jurisprudence at prestigious Tehran University.

Certain laws "today do not guarantee order and justice as our situation is different from them (early Muslims)," she said.

Source: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hMfYCDZ0DNFDykGPiWVxaf2uAMaA

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Child marriage and divorce Arwa 9, Reem 12, in Yemen

By Jenny Cuffe

BBC World Service

A narrow path leads up from the mountain town of Jibla, through century-old houses, and turns into a mud track before reaching the door of Arwa's home.

The nine year old child lives with her parents and six brothers and sisters in a humble, two-roomed house overlooking the mosque built by her namesake, Queen Arwa, who ruled Yemen 900 years ago.

She knows nothing of wealth and power but, in her own way, she has helped make history.

Arwa is the youngest of three Yemeni girls who recently went to court complaining they were married against their will and asking for divorce - an astonishing display of defiance that has prompted the government to review its law on early marriage.

The child's dark eyes shine from a pale face framed by her black headscarf. Her expression is eloquent yet she struggles to find words for what she's suffered.

Earlier this year, her father announced she was to be married, ignoring her tears of protest. She claims to have forgotten her husband's name and all she will say about him is that he seemed tall and old.

Sold off

Coming in from the street where he's been digging drains, Abdul Mohammed Ali takes up the story. He describes how a stranger, a man in his mid forties, approached him in the market asking if he knew of any marriageable girls.

After visiting their home and seeing Arwa and her 15-year-old sister, he opted for the younger child. Abdul Ali says the man promised he would wait for the girl to reach puberty before calling her to his house but then changed his mind and came to live with them

So why did he sell his daughter to a stranger?

"He gave me 30,000 rial ($150, £90) and promised another 400,000 ($2,000). I was really in need of money and thought it was a solution for the family," he explains.

For seven months, Arwa's husband shared the small room where the family eat, play and sleep.

When Arwa fought off his advances, she was beaten. The torment only came to an end when her husband and father quarrelled and Abdul Ali gave her permission to seek outside help.

At this point in the narrative, she finds her voice again, describing how she went looking for a neighbour who could lend her money for the journey to court where the judge took pity on her and granted her freedom.

A medical examination showed that she had been sexually molested but was still technically a virgin

Arwa's audacity in seeking a divorce was inspired by the example of Nujood, another young girl from the capital, Sanaa, who has become a national celebrity.

Prophet's example

A third girl, Reem is still waiting for the court's decision and says her two ambitions are to get a divorce and go to college.

Married at 12, she describes the moment when her 30-year-old husband insisted on sex. When she resisted, he choked and bit her and dragged her by the hair, overwhelming her with force.

She was imprisoned for 11 days in his house and tried to kill herself with a kitchen knife before being rescued by her mother.

Although Yemen has a law stating that 15 is the marriageable age, it is frequently flouted, particularly in poor rural areas where society is run along tribal lines.

Members of Parliament have recently been debating an amendment raising the age limit to 18, but progress has ground to a halt in the face of strong opposition from conservatives.

Sheikh Hamoud Hashim al-Tharihi is general secretary of the increasingly influential Vice and Virtue Committee and a member of the Islah Party. He cites the example of the Prophet Muhammad who married six-year-old Aisha but waited for consummation till she was a little older.

"Because this happened to the Prophet, we cannot tell people that it is prohibited to marry at an early age," he argues. Moreover, he claims it would harm society by spreading vice.

Bitter fight ahead

Yemen's Minister for Social Affairs, Professor Amat al-Razzak Hammed, recognises that the government needs to compromise and would personally opt for a legal age of 16.

She emphasises the importance of a legal framework enabling courts to punish fathers who marry their children off early and officials who sign the marriage contracts, and says the government has consulted Islamic scholars to ensure that it can be done in accordance with Sharia.

With parliamentary elections next year, President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government may be reluctant to alienate the growing forces of Islamic fundamentalism, so women's rights campaigners are preparing for a bitter fight. They are concerned that, with the global economic down-turn, more families will be under pressure to sacrifice their young daughters.

At her home in Jibla, Arwa is putting the past behind her and returning to childish games of hides and seeks in the narrow passageways near her home.

But, without a firm lead from government, her father Abdul Ali may be tempted a second time to take money for his daughter's hand in marriage, curtailing her childhood once and for all. Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7711554.stm

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British Government Offers Mixed Signals on Shari'a Courts

by David J. Rusin

Thu, 6 Nov 2008 at 11:31 AM

Many were taken aback by the news that <Islamic arbitration panels are already active in Britain, ruling on financial and marital disputes and doing so with the blessing of the state. Based on its inconsonant response to this outing, the government appears to be among those caught off guard.

 

Barely a week into his job as Gordon Brown's race relations minister, <Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, slammed the Shari'a panels, arguing that the British Muslim community is not advanced enough to run its own legal system. In particular, he unfavorably compared the Islamic courts to Jewish ones, which in his view do not exhibit the same "areas of concern":

 

Khan said he believed the tribunals would only exacerbate the unfair treatment of Muslim women.

 

"There is unequal bargaining power between men and women in this country," he said. "Women can be abused and persuaded to do things that they shouldn't have to do."

 

Secretary of State for Justice <Jack Straw attempted to alleviate such concerns during a speech to an Islamic conference in late October. Straw insisted that "English law will always remain supreme and religious councils subservient to it." He added:

 

It is ultimately up to the [regular] court to decide whether the agreement complies with English law. No court will endorse an agreement which conflicts with English law.

 

The value of Straw's assurance depends on the degree of oversight. Yet according to the Telegraph, the process — previously backed by junior justice minister Bridget Prentice — is little more than a <rubber stamp by an ordinary judge, as "neither party has to attend this hearing and approval can be obtained by filling in a two-page application." Activists fear that Muslim women may not be going to Shari'a courts of their own free will, and with nothing more than a form to evaluate, judges are unlikely to learn whether their participation had been voluntary.

 

Finally, an <October 22 decision from Britain's highest court casts doubt on the viability of Islamic tribunals operating in the UK. Referring to Shari'a as "arbitrary and discriminatory,"

 

the law lords ruled … that it would be a "flagrant breach" of the European Convention on Human Rights for the government to remove a woman to Lebanon where she would automatically lose custody of her 12-year-old son under Lebanon's Shari'a family law.

 

Incredibly, child custody cases are now being adjudicated by UK Shari'a panels.

 

So while the lords noted that "the appellant came to this country as a fugitive from Shari'a law," the government is simultaneously helping the same "arbitrary and discriminatory" code to gain a foothold on British soil. The confusion is thicker than a London fog.

Source: <http://www.islamist-watch.org/blog/2008/11/british-government-offers-mixed-signals-on.html>

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House of Lords challenges Sharia law

In the most high-profile UK criticism of the family law provisions of Sharia law so far, the Lords stated that these provisions breached the mother's rights to family life and the right against discrimination and were severely disruptive to the child.

 

By Jason Bourne

THE HOUSE of Lords on Friday described the Islamic legal code Sharia as ’wholly incompatible’ with human rights legislation, a comment that could spark an outcry among Muslims in the United Kingdom.

 

The Upper House of the British Parliament has drawn sharp attention to the conflict between Sharia and the UK law, calling the Islamic legal code ’wholly incompatible’ with human rights legislation.

 

The controversial remarks came amidst a debate in Britain over the appropriateness of incorporating Sharia courts into the UK’s legal system, a move advocated by figures including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and Lords Phillips, the new senior Law Lord.

 

The comments in the House of Lords came today as it considered the case of a woman who, if she was sent back to Lebanon, would be obliged under Sharia law to hand over custody of her 12-year-old son to a man who beat her, threw her off a balcony and on one occasion, attempted to strangle her.

The woman was seeking asylum in the UK to avoid the provisions of Sharia law that give fathers or other male family members the exclusive custody of children over seven.

In the most high-profile UK criticism of the family law provisions of Sharia law so far, the Lords stated that these provisions breached the mother’s rights to family life and the right against discrimination and were severely disruptive to the child.

The minister for community cohesion, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim said recently that Sharia courts risked entrenching unequal bargaining power between the sexes.

Sharia courts have been delivering judgments in the UK since last year and currently operate in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry and Manchester, with plans to expand into Scotland.

http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?articleID=146118

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I Am Woman’ and I want to vote

5 November 2008

BY Maahum Chaudhary

Every election, whether a ballot requires a few arrows to be connected or many, is an important election. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a small election because exercising the right to vote is a significant way to help influence the policies of where you live.

Of course, this year is no different, but I am glad to see that others have finally come to realize what I have strongly believed for most of my mature life.

In my eyes, the youth vote is one of the most important factors for any election and I am happy to find that many young people have finally found themselves to be citizens with the integral obligation to vote.

I only wish I was old enough to feed my very own crisp piece of paper into a ballot sucking machine as well.

Even though I’m not old enough to vote, I am still part of the change. I worked as a polling-place worker on the historic day of Nov. 4 2008.

Though I had worked as an election poll worker in previous years during high school for some cash and as an excuse to miss school, this year it was purely to ease my conscience in knowing that I was part of the difference.

I’ve always been motivated to exercise my right to vote, to proudly earn an “I Voted” sticker of my own instead of taking one of my parents’.

Largely, because I feel like there aren’t many people out there who I would trust to make decisions that shape my future. I’m entirely non-partisan, I don’t agree with the entire Democratic platform, nor do I despise everything Republicans stand for.

As a proud young American-raised Pakistani-Muslim self-declared feminist, I think I’d have some trouble finding an adequate person to represent my views.

As women, I would consider myself a disgrace to my gender if I didn’t vote after all the sacrifices made by the women who have preceded my existence. As a child of an immigrant couple, I would consider myself to be a disgrace to my parents and all immigrants if I didn’t freely decide the government that is bound to impact some of the most prominent features of my life.

As a Muslim woman, I would consider it a shame to stay at home and give some credibility to the stereotype that I have no independent voice or mind of my own and am therefore not capable of voting.

So on Election Day, I proudly wore an all-American smile on my prominent Pakistani features with a Hijab, a Muslim headscarf, to ensure that my handing out of “I Voted” stickers made me a part of the difference.

Source: http://theguardsman.com/2008/11/woman-vot

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Jakarta: Indonesia's New Anti-Porn Agenda

By Jason Tedjasukmana, Nov. 06, 2008

Indonesia watched its new anti-pornography law leap into action last weekend, as police raided a Jakarta nightclub and arrested three employees. The officers, according to the Kompas daily, detained three erotic dancers in the raid — the first arrests based on the controversial law since it passed last week by an overwhelming majority in Parliament. The women now face up to 10 years in prison.

It's a moment that has been many years in the making. The far-reaching anti-pornography bill, according to the Islamic parties that drafted it, is an attempt to define and regulate pornography in order to protect women and children who, they say, are vulnerable an increasing immorality creeping into Indonesia. The bills' critics, however, primarily ethnic and religious minorities, claim its provisions are a first step towards imposing Sharia law. Widespread protests to a previous, more severe version of the law in 2006 forced legislators to amend it, but efforts to shelve it altogether were defeated on Oct. 30.

While the bill has been watered down from its original pitch to exclude tourists and terms like "porno-action" in deference to minorities who feared their traditions could face persecution under the vague category, the final version retained a broad definition of pornography that many fear could be abused by law enforcers and radical organizations. "The law is wide open to interpretation and could even apply to voice, sound, poetry, works of art or literature," says Kadek Krishna Adidharma, one of many Balinese who see the law as an attempt by the Indonesian Muslim majority to impose their will on the rest of the country. "Anything that supposedly raises the libido could be prosecutable."

The law, first drafted in 1999 but resurrected this year by the nation's Islamic political parties as the country nears 2009 elections, has a long list of possible offenses. Anyone "displaying nudity" could be fined up to $500,000 and jailed for up to 10 years. Public performances that could "incite sexual desire" have been banned, and "civil society" groups will be allowed to help enforce the legislation. "The timing is very political," says Kadek. "The [supporting] parties want to use it to take the moral high ground as they enter the campaign season."

Parliamentarians who voted in favor of the bill deny this. "We are only giving voice to our constituents who are concerned with what they see on television and a sense of moral degradation," explains Zulkiflimansyah from the Muslim-oriented Prosperous Justice Party. Still other supporters say the law chiefly aims to regulate the distribution of adult materials, which circulate freely across the country in both big cities and small villages.

While it is true that loose regulation has made pornographic magazines and pirated DVDs easily available to minors in Indonesia, advocates for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities say the problem will not be righted by the new legislation. They point to existing provisions in the criminal law as sufficient to deal with the problem, and complain that the new law poses a threat to non-Muslim Indonesians. "The law imposes the will of the majority that embrace Islam, is a form of religious discrimination and against the spirit of tolerance taught by the country's founders," says Theophilus Bela, chairman of the Christian Communication Forum. "It is an effort to divide the country."

Four provinces with sizeable non-Muslim populations — Bali, Yogyakarta, Papua and North Sulawesi — have already rejected the law and said it will not be enforced in their regions. It remains to be seen how and if that will be tolerated by Jakarta. Major protests are planned for this month in Bali, where the governor has been a vocal opponent of the law and pledged that it will not be implemented. Many Balinese are now calling for greater autonomy and say dire consequences lie ahead if their demands are not met. "There is even a possibility that Bali will ask to separate from Indonesia," says Rudolf Dethu, a Balinese who has helped organize protests against the law. "It's that serious."

Source: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1857090,00.html

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Misinterpretations of Islam, hailing from Saudi Arabia, being marketed near mosques in Algiers

 CD’s and posters promoting wrong interpretation of Islam principles

By H.Z/Translation Section, Nov 06, 2008

The Chief Inspector at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Mr. Mohamed Salahedine El Kacimi, has warned on yesterday the Imams through mosques nationwide against some misinterpretations of Islam, hailing from Saudi Arabia, being marketed near several mosques in Algiers.

According to Mr. El Kacimi, these wrong interpretations are in the form of posters stuck on walls, or CD’s, while calling on the Imams notifying authorities about the merchants of these misinterpretations of Islam.

Speaking at a press conference dealing with the War of Liberation, he held yesterday at the headquarters of the Direction of Religious Affairs in Algiers, El Kacimi said the mosques have played, and still, an important role in the shaping of the public opinion in Algeria, through raising awareness, education, and fighting of social plagues.

“There are laboratories financed by Western countries, which work to ignite conflicts between Muslim people, via promoting some misinterpretations of Islam principles, some of which are being distributed through mosques of Algiers,” he added. These wrong interpretations, for example, forbid granting Zakat in cash, as well as the salute to the flag and military officers.

To face up these religious plagues, the same speaker has called on the Imams to inform the authorities of those behind these practices.

Source: http://www.elkhabar.com/quotidienFrEn/lire.php?idc=128&ida=130136

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Islamic group to Pope: Help end Mindanao conflict

Nov 05, 2008

Manila, Philippines - An Islamic group has sought the help of Pope Benedict XVI in ending more than 30 years of conflict in Mindanao, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said.

The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) lamented the conflict in Mindanao has worsened underdevelopment and poverty in the region.

"We hope Your Holiness could help us bring peace and justice to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao by expressing concern about the unfolding humanitarian crisis and appeal for restraint for the protection of all civilians, as well as for the opening of access for the provision of speedy humanitarian assistance to the affected population," they said in their letter, excerpts of which were posted on the CBCP website.

PCID lead convener Amina Rasul went to the Vatican last Nov. 1 to join a group invited to a dialogue with the Pope. She said she will hand over the open letter during the meeting.

The group said Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world's population in a well interconnected world.

But it said that without peace and justice between these two religious communities, "there can be no meaningful peace in the world, for the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians."

"As a concrete manifestation of how our faiths move us to help restore the dignity of our people in Mindanao by granting them their most cherished life in peace, we are making this appeal to Your Holiness to help us convince Philippine government and the MILF go back to the negotiating table as soon as possible, the group said.

"We believe that it is imperative that both government and the MILF share the responsibility for moving the peace process towards a sincere dialogue that reflects heavily the hearts and minds of all people who are affected by the escalating war in Mindanao," it added.

The group said that in the last two months, more than 100 people were killed while 600,000 became refugees as a result of the conflict.

PCID said justice has long been denied the minorities of the Philippines, including Muslims and indigenous people's communities.

"Their oppression has led to armed ethnic conflict between the Muslim minorities and government," the letter read. - GMANews.TV

Source: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/131413/Islamic-group-to-Pope-Help-end-Mindanao-conflict

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Maybank Islamic Introduces Structured Product

Nov 06, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 6 (Bernama) -- Maybank Islamic Bhd has launched the Maybank Al-Sayf Structured Islamic Deposit (MAS-i), a unique proposition for investors in current times, providing 100 percent capital protection on principal investment at maturity as well a guaranteed payout at the end of each year.

The capital protected portion is provided via investment in Islamic Negotiable Instruments of Deposit (INID) while annual bonus coupons and the potential upside return is obtained from investments in the Maybank Al-Sayf Index (Index).

The Index aims to adopt and profit from the trend of commodities with the aid of a trading signal that will enable it to benefit in both upward and downward trending commodity cycles.

MAS-i, the latest in the banks series of Islamic structured funds, is based on a 3.5 year tenure. There are no upfront fees, management fees or exit fees.

MAS-i has been developed to cater for the investment needs of high net worth and mass-affluent individuals.

These groups of people seek investments which can generate returns regardless of how challenging the market environment might be, acting chief executive officer of Maybank Islamic Ibrahim Hassan said in a statement here today.

He said that MAS-i's income is generated from the performance of the Maybank Al-Sayf Index.

"The investment strategy is expected to generate an average potential return higher than that offered by fixed deposits. There will be annual income distributions with a potential payoff upon maturity," he said.

Investors will receive a guaranteed payout of one percent at the end of each year plus a potential bonus payout of three percent each year if the Index is above its initial level at each annual anniversary of the trade.

At maturity, there may be a further potential payoff based on the performance of the Index over and above a Headstart Coupon of 28 percent for the 3.5 year deposit.

According to Ibrahim, MAS-i would take advantage of the trending cycles of commodities.

"We are offering an investment product that looks at the trend of the commodity cycle and follows the trend, based on the common investment principles of the trend being your friend."

Coupled with its short tenure and no imposition of fees, MAS-i is well suited to investors who want peace of mind in times of market volatility and uncertainty, as well as an opportunity to earn returns superior to those of fixed deposits, he said.

MAS-i has a fund size of RM150 million with minimum investment of RM50, 000 and subsequent subscriptions of RM50,000.

The initial offer period for MAS-i ends on Nov 20, 2008 and it is available at all Maybank and Maybank Islamic branches nationwide, to investors aged 18 and above.

Source: http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsbusiness.php?id=369786

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Iran issues warning to American forces

November 05, 2008

TEHRAN, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The Iranian military Wednesday issued a stark warning to U.S. forces in Iraq, saying it would respond "forcefully" to any violation of Iranian airspace.

The U.S. military said it has ramped up its efforts along the eastern Iraq border in an effort to stem the tide of foreign fighters entering the country from Iran. From their side, Iranian officials have complained of American helicopters approaching Iranian territory.

"Recently it has been seen that American army helicopters were flying a short distance from Iranian border areas, and it is likely to violate Iranian airspace," the military said in a statement published by the Islamic Republic News Agency.

"Iran's armed forces will forcefully respond to any attempts to violate the Islamic Republic of Iran's airspace," it added.

The statements follow a U.S. raid into Syria in October in pursuit of al-Qaida operatives along the border with Iraq. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the incursion a "barbaric act," as Syrian authorities claimed several civilians were killed in the operation.

The Iranian army statement said any similar action on its territory would be met with a swift response.

"Iran's armed forces will respond to any violation," the statement said. It also called on American forces to "change the route of the helicopter flights" to fly at a "safe distance from Iranian borders to avoid any trouble."

© 2008 United Press International. All Rights Reserved. Source: http://www.metimes.com/Security/2008/11/05/iran_issues_warning_to_american_forces/5761/

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Friendly advice from the Islamic Army in Iraq

Nov 05, 2008

In the post-election lull, every pundit from the left and right will offer President-elect Obama advice about how to run his administration. Oh, and the emir of the Islamic Army in Iraq, an insurgent faction, also wants to throw in his two cents.

The emir's dispatch, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group in Maryland, summarizes the election quickly: "This day... a mad elephant fights an ambitious black donkey to reach the destination of America's decision." It goes on to attack George W. Bush and his supporters as "war criminals" and "Darwinists," both charges which Bush would probably deny.

But if one can get beyond the ridiculous imagery, the letter offers is a fairly standard, nationalist case against the occupation of Iraq. "America should know that a people never lost a struggle for freedom," it warns. America should depend "on dialogue and cooperation with others in order to achieve goals."

Odds are, Obama won't be listening to the advice of the Islamic Army in Iraq, but his most trusted advisors will soon be telling him some of the very same things.

Source: http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/10224


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/obama-appeal-in-muslim-world-may-tone-down-militants/d/964


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