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Islamic World News ( 25 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Peaceful revolution beginnings across Muslim-Jewish divide by Haroon Siddiqui

Settlers in Hebron right graffiti on mosque walls insulting Islam, calling for killing Arabs by Saed Bannoura

Cairo: Muslims, Christians and police clash in Cairo

MALEGAON: In India, Controversy Over Hindus' Arrests

Indonesia: 4,200 legislative candidates put on oath against corruption

Saudi Arabia denies Mullah Omar asylum report

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Peaceful revolution beginnings across Muslim-Jewish divide

In mosques, synagogues and churches, believers make an attempt to understand each other

Haroon Siddiqui, Nov 23, 2008

There's no sign of an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Tensions from that conflict continue to spill over into Canada. Yet peace is breaking out on many Arab-Israeli – and, more broadly, Muslim-Jewish – fronts in Toronto.

You wouldn't know so following the media. They have developed an alliance of lazy convenience with extremists, to whom they give disproportionate airtime and ink. The case of the Somali mosque in Toronto is only the latest example.

Let's start in Israel.

Yes, the U.S.-initiated peace effort is stalled, with Ehud Olmert on the way out and his successor Tzipi Livni awaiting an election. The rockets from Gaza continue to land in Israel, and Israel's collective punishment of Gazans continues. So do the arguments: No rockets, no collective punishment. No overall peace, no end to resistance.

Still, there has been a sea change. There's broad acceptance of a two-state solution. Israelis differ only on the details and on how best to break the political logjam.

Shimon Peres, Israel's most respected public figure, senses an opening. Using his presidential pulpit and contacts with the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, he's keeping the peace agenda alive.

This helps the electoral chances of Livni over Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu. She is committed to the peace process.

Livni joined Peres at the United Nations last week in praising the 2002 Saudi peace plan of King Abdullah. This is the same plan that Israelis had earlier ignored.

The Jewish Diaspora in North America, traditionally more hard-line than the Israelis, this time seems in sync with Israeli thinking. There has been praise for Abdullah's peace plan (Barack Obama likes it, too), and also for the king's recent multi-faith outreach.

The latter fits in with the twinning of 50 synagogues and 50 mosques in North America, including eight in the Toronto area, this weekend.

This is a historic development. Congregants are attending each other's services, exploring sacred commonalities and sharing meals.

It is an initiative of Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, New York. When I phoned him Tuesday, he was returning from a California gathering of the Temple Emmanuel, Beverly Hills, and King Fahd Mosque, Culver City.

"Many Jews there had never met any individuals of other faiths," let alone Muslims, he said. "There was a genuine spirit of brotherhood."

The twinning will "strengthen the moderates," and help combat anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism.

Jewish peace activists continue to work with Palestinians and Arab Canadians, including in Toronto.

The annual Voices Forward festival is finishing its third run. As reported by the Star's Nicholas Keung, movies, music, plays and lectures about the Israeli occupation have triggered a peaceful dialogue, according to artistic director Amit Breuer, who moved to Canada from Israel four years ago.

A photo exhibit about Hebron is at the XEXE Gallery, 624 Richmond St. W., until next Saturday.

Yet another photo exhibit about the West Bank is in Toronto. Bil'in – Village Against the Wall catalogues the weekly protests held by that village against the Israeli security fence. The show is at Tinto's Café, 89 Roncesvalles Ave. until Tuesday.

There are other instances of co-operation across the religious divide.

The Canadian Jewish Congress and the Canadian Somali Congress have started a mentorship program to match young Somalis with accountants, engineers, lawyers, etc.

Bernie Farber of the Jewish Congress was quoted as saying: "The stress here is on the `Canadian' part of our names. We are trying to forge a path and make a statement we haven't been able to make before."

He told me: "This is Canada."

He was concerned over the furore involving the Somali mosque's website carrying anti-Semitic remarks. Such issues are best resolved, he said, through discussion, rather than confrontation

A little digging and a lot of dialogue with the mosque told the whole truth. "Within 48 hours, they had clarified that the website did not represent the views of the mosque. We worked it out."

Another independent inter-faith initiative took place last Sunday, at the Anglican Church of the Transfiguration, on Manor Road, off Yonge St., south of Eglinton.

With Reverend Michael Burgess presiding, the 100 or so congregants sang or heard the hymns, listened to a sermon by Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl of Beth Tzedec Congregation and prayed with Hamid Slimi of the Canadian Council of Imams.

At the end of the inter-faith service, the 20 or so Jews, many with kippahs, moved to a side alcove for Ma'ariv, their sunset service. The dozen or so Muslims went into a side room to say Maghrib, their sunset prayers. Both groups then joined the others in the basement for a kosher meal.

The church has long held Christian-Jewish services. Last year, disturbed by Islamophobia, it began an outreach to Muslims. In that spirit, Frydman-Kohl noted how Jews, Christians and Muslims tell the story of Abraham differently.

"For Jews, this is a narrative about the split-up of the family of Avraham, the different blessings that each son receives, and a clear statement that God wants commitment, not children, so that child sacrifice will be forever prohibited.

"In the early Christian church, Abraham's willingness to follow God's command to sacrifice Isaac was used as an example of faith and of obedience.

"The Qur'an tells of the command to Ibrahim to sacrifice his son (Ismail) ... Later Ibrahim and Ismail are said to have built the foundations of the Ka'aba.

"Here we have essentially the same story. However, it is remembered in different ways, and we draw different lessons."

Frydman-Kohl then invited Slimi to his shul. The imam was to speak at yesterday's Sabbath service.

The point of these stories is clear.

Viewed in their broad context and complexity, they begin to look like the start of a peaceful revolution.

Haroon Siddiqui's column appears Thursday and Sunday.



Settlers in Hebron right graffiti on mosque walls insulting Islam, calling for killing Arabs

By Saed Bannoura, November 22, 2008

A group of extremist Israeli settlers wrote graffiti on the walls on the Al Ras Mosque, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, calling for killing all Arabs and insulting Islam and Prophet Mohammad. The settlers also dumped trash into the mosque and uprooted dozens of olive trees.

The recent attack was carried out as the settlers “were expressing” their rejection to evacuation a Palestinian house adjacent to the mosque. The settlers illegally occupied the property on March 19 and the Israeli Supreme Court recently decided that they should evacuate it.   The house in question belongs to Al Rajabi family.

Local sources in Hebron reported that the settlers also desecrated graves in the Islamic Graveyard and hurled stones at dozens of Palestinian vehicles and homes in the city.

Most of the attacks were concentrated in Al Ja’bary neighborhood, Wadi Al Nasarah, Wadi Al Hasseen, and Jabal Jalis.

Several residents in Hebron complained that they became imprisoned in their homes, cannot leave them as they will be subjected to assaults and abuse by the settlers. 

Hebron governor Dr. Hussein Al A’raj demanded the Israeli occupation forces to implement the Israeli court’s ruling and evacuate the settlers from the house of Al Rajabi.

“This is unimaginable; the settlers are desecrating the graves, writing graffiti insulting the prophet and insulting Islam”, the governor stated, “the high court issued several rulings to evacuate the house, to reopen roads the army and the settlers closed, but the army does not care and continues to protect the settlers who are attacking us, our graves, our homes, holy sites and lands”.

The settlers yet continue to ignore the decision of the Supreme Court as it stated in its last week’s ruling that they should voluntarily evacuate the four-story house within days.

A statement issued by the office of the Israeli Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, said that the court ordered the evacuation of the settlers from the Palestinian house but the settlers ignored the ruling.

Consecutive Israeli governments traditionally avoid taking action against the radical and armed Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. This issue enabled the settlers to keep and even expand dozens of illegal settlement outposts. 



Muslims, Christians and police clash in Cairo

Nov 23, 2008

Cairo - A clash between Muslims, Christians and the police in the Egyptian capital of Cairo late Sunday resulted in injuries and multiple arrests of members of both groups, eyewitnesses and authorities said.

Hundreds of Muslims gathered after evening prayers in a Cairo neighbourhood to protest that Christians in the area had gathered to pray in a parish hall. Violence broke out between the group and police then intervened, eyewitnesses said.

Security sources said eight people were injured, while eyewitnesses spoke of dozens hurt.

Similar confrontations have occurred in the Egyptian provinces. Conflicts between the religions in Cairo have mostly involved instances in which Muslims have converted to Christianity.

In Egypt, difficulties receiving state authorization to build a new church have caused many Christians to instead meet in parish halls or other venues. Source:


In India, Controversy over Hindus' Arrests

Terrorism Case Sets Off Politicking, Protests

By Rama Lakshmi

November 24, 2008

MALEGAON, India -- Every morning, dozens of Muslim men gather at a tea shop in this western textile town near the spot where a motorcycle bomb exploded in September during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The bomb killed six people, injured 101 and punctured the walls of the shop, whose clock stands frozen at the exact minute the bomb went off.

The men, slurping hot tea, pass around the newspaper to keep up with the ongoing investigation into the blast, which has led to the arrests of 10 Hindus here in Maharashtra state in recent weeks.

"We have always known that Hindu extremists were behind the blast, but we never thought the government would have the courage to arrest Hindus. The suspicion is always on Muslims," said Ejaz Ahmad, the 32-year-old shop owner, who was injured in the bombing. "Now we feel there is justice."

But in the rest of the country, the arrests of Hindus in a terrorism case and the use of the new tag "Hindu terror" have sparked enormous controversy. The acrimonious political debate and the street demonstrations in support of the accused threaten to paralyze India's concerted response to terrorism. The controversy also points to the growing complexities of combating tit-for-tat terrorism in this predominantly Hindu but officially secular nation.

Since May, several Indian cities have been rocked by bombings in crowded public places that killed more than 200 people. Police arrested scores of suspects from an outlawed Muslim student organization and a new Muslim group calling itself the Indian Mujaheddin, which asserted responsibility. But a handful of bombings in mosques and Muslim neighbourhoods puzzled them.

Then, in the past month, came the arrests of the 10 Hindus, including a self-styled female saint and an army officer.

Police say that most of the 10 have been associated with or have attended meetings of a little-known group called Abhinav Bharat, or "New India," which is under scrutiny on suspicion of plotting the Malegaon bombing. At meetings across the country in the past two years, according to police, members of the group have given fiery speeches advocating the creation of a Hindu nation, attacked India's secular policies and urged Hindus to rise up against the Muslim extremist groups implicated in bomb attacks in India.

"They criticized the government and the police for being soft on terrorism," said Shailendra Shrivastava, inspector general of police in the central Indian city of Bhopal, where some of the meetings were held. "What we are seeing today is reprisal bombings against Muslims."

With every bombing this year, Hindu nationalist politicians played to the Hindu vote with denunciations of the growth of Islamist groups. And when the government arrested Muslim suspects, politicians vying for the Muslim vote would visit their families to express sympathy. This brazen appeal along religious lines has come to dominate India's response to terrorism.

The ruling Congress party government in New Delhi, which had been under criticism for cracking down on Muslim suspects, is now being accused of placating Muslims ahead of crucial six-state elections by going after Hindu extremists.

"It is a great balancing act by the Congress government. To appease the Muslims, they are now arresting Hindus for terrorism," said Himani Savarkar, 62, a Hindu nationalist and the president of Abhinav Bharat. Savarkar denied that the group had discussed bombs but said it works to "rouse Hindus out of their slumber and become alert to the danger around them from jihadi terrorism."

Such rhetoric has been part of India's political landscape for two decades, as Hindu nationalist parties gained center stage with strident appeals to Hindu sentiment. But although scores of Hindu activists have been arrested for rioting, this is the first time any have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism.

The police got their first lead in the Malegaon case when forensic analysis revealed that the motorcycle was owned by a 36-year-old Hindu holy woman, Pragya Singh. They also claim to have records of telephone conversations that include Singh.

"We have evidence against all the accused for their respective roles in instigation, abetment, providing explosives and funding," said Ajay Misar, the public prosecutor in the case, citing cell-phone call records, bank statements, diaries, laptop data and confessions. "All the evidence will be scrutinized by court, not by political pressure or public opinion."

But Singh's attorney, Ganesh Sovani, said police beat his client with "flour-mill conveyor belts" to extract false confessions. "She sold her motorcycle in 2004. How can she be held responsible now? She had no control or knowledge of how and who used her bike," Sovani said.

Police say that another suspect, Lt. Col. Srikant Prasad Purohit, provided combat training and explosives to Hindu activists and that they have a text message he sent to another accused after Singh's arrest. The message allegedly reads: "Cat is out of the bag. Singh has sung. Please delete my number."

Many Indians have expressed shock and embarrassment at the sensational findings unfolding daily on television.

As soon as police, politicians and the news media uttered the term "Hindu terror," Hindu nationalist groups across India began protesting. "Hindus can never be terrorists," the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said, adding that terrorists do not have a religion. Others said Hindus were peaceful people and had never invaded any other civilization in history. One columnist suggested that the phrase "Hindu terror" be replaced with "Hindutva terror," separating the attacks from mainstream Hinduism by using a political term denoting Hindu chauvinism or pride.

"You cannot call it Hindu terrorism. If you must, then call it retributive terrorism," said Ram Madhav, a spokesman for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the umbrella group for most of the country's Hindu activists.

At each appearance of the accused before the judge, hundreds of Hindu activists stormed the court chanting, "We are with you," waving orange flags and showering marigold petals on the vehicles carrying the prisoners. They charged the government with demonizing "Hindu saints, Hindu society and the Indian army."

"The cases are fabricated. But even if they have done anything, I would say it is a reaction, not an action," Savarkar said. "We cannot keep showing the other cheek. The Hindus are fed up." She set up a legal aid fund this month to help Hindus booked in the Malegaon case.

The BJP is running campaign ads on TV accusing the Congress government of smearing the names of soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the nation. On Friday, Purohit, the accused army officer, alleged in court that the police had threatened to kill him if he did not confess.

"His whereabouts are all a matter of record with the military. Every hour of his life is accounted for," said his attorney, Avinash Bhide. "The media coverage has already tried and proven him guilty."

In the coming days, hundreds of orange-robed self-styled Hindu saints will march to New Delhi to launch a "Hindu mobilization drive."

"We have to be cautious," said Sanjay Nirupam, a Congress leader. "We don't want to be called an anti-Hindu party. We should isolate the extremist groups but not alienate the entire Hindu community."

But Fareeda Sheik Liaqat, who lost her 10-year-old daughter in the bombing that Ramadan night in Malegaon, says the naked politicking over terrorism reopens her wounds constantly.

"I do not understand politics, but the person who killed my beautiful girl should be punished," said Liaqat, 35, as she ran her hand over her daughter's pink-and-blue Spiderman school bag. "She wanted to be a doctor."



Indonesia: 4,200 legislative candidates put on oath against corruption

Nov 23, 2008

The Ulema National Awakening Party (PKNU) swore an oath on Sunday binding all 4,200 of its legislative candidates not to commit any corrupt act, reported.

"I swear not to commit any corrupt act or any other disgraceful act and not to accept any gift in any form related to my duty as a representative of the people," a member of PKNU consultative board, Ubaidillah Faqih, led the candidates in an oath-swearing ceremony in Jakarta.

The party chairman Choirul Anam said the party was established by ulemas and Muslim clerics and thus its members should stay away from such things.

"If any (of these candidates) violates (the law), the party, not the law enforcement authorities, will be the first to act against them," he said.

The PKNU was established in 2006 by clerics of the country's biggest Muslim organization - Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), who opposed the leadership of former NU chairman Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.

They were disappointed by the Gus Dur-controlled National Awakening Party (PKB). (dre)



Saudi Arabia denies Mullah Omar asylum report

Sunday November 23, 2008

BERLIN (Reuters) - King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has offered political asylum to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday, a move which Saudi Arabia later denied.

The offer had been pushed by U.S. President George W. Bush and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, the magazine said in an advance report from its Monday edition, quoting government sources in Kabul. It did not give further details.

"Concerning what some international media reported about Saudi Arabia offering political asylum to the Taliban leader, an official source at the Saudi foreign ministry out rightly denied the story," the Saudi Press Agency said.

Saudi Arabia hosted a meeting between pro-government Afghan officials and former Taliban officials in September for discussions on how to end the worsening conflict in Afghanistan.

An Afghan government official said on Wednesday Afghan government representatives and former members of the Taliban were expected to meet in Saudi Arabia soon for a second round of talks.

The official said Karzai, King Abdullah and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had discussed the initiative on the sidelines of a U.N. conference in New York this month.

Omar is suspected to be hiding in the mountainous areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Karzai has said he will guarantee the safety of Omar if he wants to talk peace to end the hardline Islamist group's insurgency.

Saudi Arabia has a history of providing sanctuary for exiled and controversial politicians, including Uganda's Idi Amin, who died in exile there in 2003.

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates were the main supporters of the Taliban when they ruled from 1996 to 2001. The Taliban were overthrown by U.S.-led troops in 2001, weeks after the Sept. 11 attack on the United States.

Copyright © 2008 Reuters