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Islamic World News ( 13 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Swat, Pakistan: Catholic girls' school destroyed

Non-Muslim groups advised not to question Shariah laws

Burston: Obama and the first Arab prime minister of Israel

Islamic Movement faces test in elections by BRENDA GAZZAR

Obama Wins, Muslims Divided by Daniel Pipes    

Washington: Obama Declares Gay Sharia Law Marxist Black Hispanic Agrarian Society

Islamic Council against hitting children

Islamabad: In-camera resolution: 17-member special body of parliament set up

Tajik Clerics Launch Unusual Campaign against 'Imported' Hijabs

Sydney: Australian terror case judge: Islam not on trial

Israel: Expect a decline of religious fundamentalism in Iran

Portraying Muslims by Arif Husaain Sarmast

Is Turkey Bosnia’s mother?

Interview with Raheel Raza: Author of Their Jihad . . . Not My Jihad.


2. Raheel Raza: Enemies are everywhere

Interview with Yoginder Sikand: SIO President on Critique of Radical Islamism and Islamophobia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Swat, Pakistan: Catholic girls' school destroyed

SWAT - 11 November 2008

A Catholic school in Sangota, in the area surrounding the city of Swat has been destroyed by raiders, according to a report on Fides from the Pakistani Bishops Justice and Peace Commission.

The girls' boarding school, run by the Apostolic Carmelite Sisters of Sri Lanka was attacked with rudimentary explosives that destroyed the building. No victims have been reported thus far, as the Sisters themselves had closed the school, as a precaution. The school was built in 1965 and had nearly 1,000 students mainly from poor Christian and Muslim families.

According to information released by the Church in Pakistan, the Northwest Frontier Province has suffered attacks on nearly 150 schools in recent years, a sign of the rise in intolerance and the spread of Islamic fundamentalist groups that are trying to annihilate the work of Christian institutions in the area of education.

A spokesman said: "For the Christians living in the Northwest Frontier Province, fear is a part of everyday life. Threats, as well as physical and verbal aggressions continue, while Islamic fundamentalist groups, the so-called 'Pakistani Talibans' continue to terrify the non-Muslim people, forcing conversions to Islam and leading the minorities to have to flee the area.

Other parts of the country are also worried about terrorism, as the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance affirms. The group is dedicated to the defence of religious minorities in the nation. In cities such as Islamabad and Lahore, Christian buildings have received "absurd threats whose only purpose is to sow fear in the hearts of the faithful." Pakistan is becoming a "war zone," the group says.

The Swat Valley is in the hands of the Islamic fundamentalist groups and authorities do not seem to have any control over the territory. There, the religious minorities are victims of violence and persecution.

The Church has asked the new president of Pakistan, Ali Zardari, to take adequate measures in confronting religious extremism that places the lives of non-Muslim Pakistani people at risk, denying them their Constitutional rights and freedoms.

Source: Fides. © Independent Catholic News 2008



Non-Muslim groups advised not to question Shariah laws

November 11, 2008

The Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has told non-Muslim groups to stop interfering in the implementation of Syariah laws such as the National Fatwa Council’s edict on tomboys.

Berita Harian quoted its director-general Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz as saying that the edict was issued to guide Muslims and save the younger generation from indulging in forbidden acts.

“Them questioning the council’s edict, calling it unfair and discriminatory go against the rights of Muslims,” he said when commenting on protesters who denounced the edict against tomboys, claiming that Muslim women should have the right of expression and dressing.

Wan Mohamed said the edict was issued in the interest of Muslims, and not the personal interests of certain groups.

“We advise those who denounce the edict to refer to their religious leaders on the issue and other matters and not look down on resolutions made by a religious body that they are not part of,” he said.

Install cooking gas tank for cars like putting a "time bomb"

Kosmo! Quoted a distributor of natural gas (NGV) kits for cars as saying that installing an improvised cooking gas tank in cars was like putting in a “timebomb”.

“This is because a cooking gas tank can only withstand half the gas pressure exerted on NGV kits,” said John Liew.

“A cooking gas tank also does not come with safety features like a real NGV kit, which can automatically cut off the flow of gas when the pressure is high,” he said.

He was commenting on a gas tank contraption in a van that exploded in Malacca, killing a man on Saturday.



Obama and the first Arab prime minister of Israel

By Bradley Burston

Nov 11, 2008. Burston

I have been trying in the last few days to make clear to Israelis the enormity of the meaning of the presidential election in the United States.

Only one thing works.

"Imagine," I tell them, "that Israel elected an Arab prime minister."

At first there is, without exception, a stunned silence. Then something dawns. Something unformed. And, in general - even with leftists - something deep inside that seems unable to wrap the head around the thought.

I mention, half in explanation, half in something approaching an effort to soothe agitated souls, that it took the United States 232 years before an African-American could be nominated and elected president.

I should have known this would happen. For weeks prior to election day, countless Israelis, many of them enthusiastic admirers of Barack Obama, told me with conviction that they believed that in the privacy of the polling booth, when Americans saw the actual names on the actual ballots, the voters' hands would gravitate, Ouija-like, away from Obama-Biden and over to McCain-Palin.

"He's great, but they're not going to vote for him," I heard, over and over.

At the time, I chalked it up to a certain historical tunnel-vision vis-à-vis Americans.

From this remove, though, I have begun to realize that the Israelis were saying something of significance about themselves.

A case in point: The day after Israelis learned of the Obama victory, Israel Radio aired a discussion of "the other" in Israeli politics, and why so many groups have remained so long and so completely out of the running for Israel's somewhat shop-worn equivalent of the Oval Office.

Panellists, noting that Israel had been led, by and large, by a succession of male politicians of European descent, took turns listing the many kinds of "others" whom major parties had slighted or ruled out in putting forth candidates for the nation's top job.

Although, or perhaps because, Israel has had one woman prime minister and May soon have another, the litany began with women. It then moved on to Mizrachim, Jews who trace their ancestry to the Mediterranean region or the Middle East.

Immigrants from the former Soviet Union were mentioned next, then immigrants from Ethiopia. Settlers then appeared on the list, followed by the ultra-Orthodox, some of whom have yet to recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

Astonishingly, only after foreign workers were cited, did it occur to one of the panellists to add to the list, the nation's 1.45 million Arab citizens, more than 20 percent of the total population.

So completely has Israel's majority convinced itself that the Arab population is out of the running for the premiership - either because Israeli Jews see them as an embittered fifth column, or as a group battered into docility - that at this point, politically, they do not, they cannot, see Arabs at all.

When the time comes, and an Arab becomes prime minister of Israel, I want to be a part of the victory celebration. The racists and the far-rightists among us will please pardon me, but something tells me that on that Election Day, just like the one last week, I won't be able to stop smiling.



Islamic Movement faces test in elections

By BRENDA GAZZAR, Nov 10, 2008

Political observers are keeping a close eye on the outcomes of Tuesday's elections in Arab cities and local authorities, where some races are expected to be particularly tight and where political parties often contend with clan-based voting.

In Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab city, long-time Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy of the Nazareth Democratic Front - a part of Hadash - is competing with Ahmad Zoubi, who is running on a unified list alongside representatives of the Islamic Movement.

Both candidates say they are the most qualified to maintain the unity of the city, where tensions periodically flare between the city's Muslim and minority Christian population.

Five years ago, Jaraisy, a Christian, beat Zoubi, a Muslim, by a two percent margin and this year's race could be just as close.

"If the incumbent mayor loses, it will be very significant because it would put an end to a very long period of Hadash control over the municipality, which in fact started in December 1975," said Prof. Elie Rekhess, director of Tel Aviv's Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Education and an expert in Arab politics in Israel.

Zoubi, whose united list is made up of all Muslim candidates, said he was confident there would finally be a change of regime.

"I think that the atmosphere of change is all over the world, not only in America with [Barack] Obama, but also in Nazareth," he said.

Jaraisy said his party was expected to win not only the mayoral race, but also a majority on the city council.

In addition to preserving unity, both candidates mentioned territorial annexation as well as economic and cultural development among their goals.

In the northern city of Umm el-Fahm, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement has been in control for nearly 20 years and is extremely popular. The movement's candidate for mayor, Khaled Hamdan, was chosen to run over the current mayor, Hashim Abdul Rahman, who has held the position for the last five years.

Rahman said the move was "an internal decision."

In another sign of internal tensions, another candidate from the Islamic Movement, Tahir Ali, has opted to split away and is running on an independent list. Observers say he was unhappy with the way the city was being run.

Two secular candidates are also running, one supported by Hadash and Balad, the other supported by a radical, nationalistic party called "Abna el-Balad." However, the secular opposition in Umm el-Fahm has been "very unsuccessful," Rekhess said, with the Islamic candidate for mayor earning 75 percent of the vote in the last elections.

In the town of Rahat, near Beersheba, the more moderate southern branch of the Islamic Movement is trying to regain control of this important Arab population center.

The movement controlled the town from 1989 to 1993 and then again from 1998 to 2001, but hasn't dominated since.

The current mayor, Talal el-Qarinawi, is an independent candidate who has served since 2001. He is vying against Islamic Movement candidate Faiz Abu Tzeyban as well as two independent candidates.

Issues range from employment to education to infrastructure, said Ali Abu Hassan, the municipality's secretary.

Another important race in Tuesday's elections is the battle for the mayor of Sakhnin, where the incumbent Muhammad Bashir (Hadash) is running against Mazen Ghanaim, who is affiliated with the Balad Party.

This is the only place in the Arab sector where candidates representing the two parties are vying in a municipal leadership race, said Muhanned Mustafa, a political science doctoral student at the University of Haifa.

"It gives the election in Sakhnin a certain importance. It also has an influence on the national elections," he said.

"It's important for Balad to win, so that it can give the impression that it is strong and didn't weaken after the departure of [former MK and Balad leader] Azmi Bishara," he said. "Hadash wants to win there so it can say and feel that it is still the most popular party in the local elections."

Elections are not taking place in nine Arab localities, including Kafr Kana and Taibe, because their local councils have been dissolved by the Interior Ministry due to financial troubles and the towns are now being run by administrative committees.

Yousef Jabareen, director of the Nazareth-based Dirasat: Arab Center for Law and Policy, argues that these troubles are caused both by a lack of equitable funding to Arab localities and a "lack of adequate skills among the elected representatives," which are often elected according to families or clans.

In addition to more government funds, he said, "there is a need for the Arab community and civil society to improve the skills and capacities of our representatives within the local government to guarantee better performance."  Source:


Obama Wins, Muslims Divided              

By Daniel Pipes, November 11, 2008

Ali ibn Abi-Talib, the seventh-century figure central to Shiite Islam, is said to have predicted when the world will end, columnist Amir Taheri points out. A "tall black man" commanding "the strongest army on earth" will take power "in the west." He will carry "a clear sign" from the third imam, Hussein. Ali says of the tall black man: "Shiites should have no doubt that he is with us."

Barack Hussein in Arabic means "the blessing of Hussein." In Persian, Obama translates as "He [is] with us." Thus does the name of the presumptive American president-elect, when combined with his physical attributes and geography, suggest that the End of Times is nigh – precisely what Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been predicting.

Back down on earth, the Muslim reaction to Obama's victory is more mixed than one might expect.

American Islamists are delighted; an umbrella group, the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Election, opined that, with Obama's election, "Our nation has … risen to new majestic heights." Siraj Wahhaj, Al-Hajj Talib Abdur Rashid, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Muslim Alliance in North America responded with similar exuberance.

Hamas, and Islamist movements in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, Indonesia and the Philippines are delighted in Obama's election. Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch generalizes that jihadists and Islamic supremacists worldwide showed "unalloyed joy." The New York Times finds public reaction in the Middle East mostly "euphoric." John Esposito of Georgetown University emphasizes the Muslim world's welcome to Obama as an "internationalist president."But plenty of other Muslims have other views. Writing in Canada's Edmonton Sun, Salim Mansur found John McCain the "more worthy candidate." Yusif al-Qaradawi, the Al-Jazeera sheikh, endorsed McCain for opposite reasons: "This is because I prefer the obvious enemy who does not hypocritically [conceal] his hostility toward you… to the enemy who wears a mask [of friendliness]." Al-Qaradawi also argued that twice as many Iraqis died during Bill Clinton's two administrations than during George W. Bush's.

Iran's hardliners also favored a McCain victory (according to Iran's former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi) "because they benefit more from enmity with the U.S., which allows them to rally the Islamic world behind their policies and at the same time suppress dissent at home." The Taliban took note of Obama's election promise to increase U.S. troops in Afghanistan, warning that, should he fulfill this plan, "jihad and resistance will be continued."

Iraqis are intensively divided about Obama's plan quickly to withdraw U.S. troops from their country. That plan, plus promises to end U.S. dependence on Middle East oil and to negotiate with Iranian leaders, rattled the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf governments.

Some commentators argue that Obama cannot make a real difference; an Iranian newspaper declares him unable to alter a system "established by capitalists, Zionists, and racists." Predictably, the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as Obama's chief of staff confirmed Palestinian perceptions of an omnipotent Israel lobby. A commentator in the United Arab Emirates went further, predicting Obama's replication of Jimmy Carter's trajectory of flamboyant emergence, failure in the Middle East, and electoral defeat.

In all, these mixed reactions from Muslims suggest puzzlement at the prospect of a U.S. president of Islamic origins who promises "change," yet whose foreign policy may buckle under the constraints of his office. In other words, Muslims confront the same question mark hanging over Obama as everyone else:

Never before have had Americans voted into the White House a person so unknown and enigmatic. Emerging from a hard-left background, he ran, especially in the general election, mostly as a center-left candidate. Which of these positions will he adopt as president? More precisely, where along the spectrum from hard- to center-left will he land?

Looking at the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example, will Obama's policies reflect Rashid Khalidi, the ex-PLO flak he befriended in the 1990s, or Dennis Ross, his recent campaign advisor and member of my board of editors? No one can yet say.

Still, one can predict. Should Obama return to his hard left roots, Muslim euphoria will largely continue. Should he seek to make his presidency a success by moving to the center-left, many – but hardly all – Muslims will experience severe disillusionment?


Obama Declares Gay Sharia Law Marxist Black Hispanic Agrarian Society

By drugtestall politicians 09 November 2008

Washington (IPP) - Obama has declared that America will henceforth be a gay, sharia law, Marxist, black/Hispanic, agrarian society.

"Starting on Monday there will be total redistribution of the wealth as blacks and others falling under the new title take over the homes of white folks. White folks will be sent to reservations and they must get there on foot or expire trying," Obama told reporters. Whites will grow the food for the rest of the "New Society" as Obama calls it. During the Johnson years America had the "Great Society".

Whites will be allowed to reproduce only to maintain the labour force and men and women will live in separate barracks. People who can not work or reproduce will be terminated as humanely as possible.

The military will be purged of white forces and will be 100% black as will the police force.

Obama said that black think tanks had been working on these issues for years as white folks sat around drinking beer and watching sports, became fat, and lost interest in their "interests".



Islamic Council against hitting children

The Islamic Council is against hitting children as part of child-rearing, but Frp thinks smacking is fine. Smacking children will now be forbidden.

In 1995, the Supreme Court said that giving one’s children light, disciplinary smacks was not punishable. Now however, the government wants to change regulations to end all forms of smacking, writes Dagsavisen.

”It needs to be crystal clear that children have the same legal protection as adults in Norway. Parents also need to know that they do not have any punishment rights. Just as it is wrong to smack an adult, it is also wrong to smack a child,” says the state secretary, Astri Aas-Hansen from the Ministry of Justice.

She informs that the government will submit a proposition for changes in the law before Christmas.

”In the new draft, paragraph 228, we also emphasize that Norway has to meet international demands to do with the legal security of children, and the phrasing is unarguable. It will no longer be possible to interpret the law such that children can be smacked,” says Aas-Hansen.

Parental rights to punish their children were abolished in 1972. The Supreme Court ruling in 1995 came in connection with a step-father who had hit two children on their behinds with the palm of his hand. The Supreme Court’s view was that smacking a child is acceptable as long as parents do not use much force, and that is happens spontaneously, so that the smack does not involve any form of violation for the child. Aas-Hansen thinks it is incomprehensible that the Supreme Court managed to conclude as they did.  Source:


In-camera resolution: 17-member special body of parliament set up

By Muhammad Bilal, November 11, 2008

Islamabad: National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza named 17 members of a parliamentary committee to oversee the implementation of a consensus resolution on security on Monday.

The committee would formulate its rules within a month and Leader of the House in Senate Mian Raza Rabbani had been assigned to preside over the committee for the purpose, the speaker told a press conference.

She did not name a chairman because of differences among political parties, and said the committee would elect its chairman. The committee would be empowered to hold public hearings and visit the troubled areas, the speaker said.

Asked if the body would be authorised to hold talks with the Taliban, the speaker only said the committee would act in line with the consensus resolution.

To a question, she said whether the committee would be able to stop US drones strikes inside Pakistan would depend on how effectively it would implements its decisions.

The members of the committee are: Raza Rabbani, Babar Awan and Sherry Rehman from the Pakistan People’s Party, Ishaq Dar and Mehtab Abbasi from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Waseem Sajjad from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, Haider Abbas Rizvi from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Asfandyar Wali from the Awami National Party, Fazlur Rehman from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Munir Orakzai from FATA, Khursheed Ahmed from the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Razzak Thaheem from the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, Aftab Sherpao from the Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao, Abdul Raheem Mandokhel from the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, Israrullah Zehri from the Balochistan National Party-Awami, Shahid Bugti from the Jamhoori Watan Party and Samiul Haq from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Sami.\11\11\story_11-11-2008_pg1_8


Tajik Clerics Launch Unusual Campaign against 'Imported' Hijabs

By Farangis Najibullah, Nov 11, 2008

Tajik authorities, who have waged a persistent campaign against the wearing of the Hijab, or Islamic head scarf, have found an unlikely partner.

In an official meeting with clerics and imams last week, the country's Council of Islamic Clerics suggested that "foreign-made" Hijabs are unsuitable for women in Tajikistan.

Instead, the clerics have encouraged Tajik women to switch to the national costume, which consists of a dress reaching below the knee, worn with trousers. The colour and length of the national costume vary depending on women's individual tastes. A Hijab is considered optional.

Tajikistan, a predominately Muslim country, has greater ties to Islamic heritage and traditions than most other Central Asian countries, even though the Tajik government has made great efforts to secularize the country since gaining independence in 1991.

 Cleric Qobiljon Boev, the head of the fatwa department at the council, says the clerics believe the imported Hijabs "do not meet Islamic standards." He said the Hijabs "seem to be too tight."

"There were many clerics and senior imams in the meeting, including the grand mufti of the country," Boev says. "And they suggested that Tajik girls should wear our national costume. Those [imported] Hijabs are not compatible with real Islamic standards, and we – as representatives of an Islamic center, the Council of Islamic Clerics – oppose those Hijabs that don't meet Islamic requirements."

Hijabs – imported mostly from Arab countries, as well as Turkey and Iran – are widely available in Tajik markets and have become a hot topic in Tajik society since the country's Education Ministry banned head scarves in schools and universities last year.

Some students left university; some unsuccessfully sued the ministry, while many other Hijab-wearing girls decided to remove their head scarves while inside school buildings.

Widening Campaign?

It appears that the government may now be expanding its campaign against the Hijab.

Mehri, who works in a private shop in the capital, Dushanbe, says local officials recently ordered all female shopkeepers in the city center not to appear at work wearing Hijabs.

"They called a meeting and told the girls to take off their head scarves," Mehri says. "I didn't go anywhere to complain. Who can I complain to? To the police?"

Many Tajiks say the government is engaged in a "losing battle" against the Hijab and that the number of women and girls who wear head scarves has not decreased since the ministry's ban.

Clerics and imams, including members of the Council of Islamic Clerics, have been actively involved in the Hijab debate and have always advocated women's religious freedom. So it was highly unusual for clerics to encourage the national costume as a "more appropriate" equivalent to the Hijab.

Government Pressure

Many Tajiks say the council has come under government pressure to join its campaign against the Hijab.

Abdullo Rahnamo, a Dushanbe-based expert on religious affairs, says that despite being an independent religious organization, the council has always been "close to the government" and "supported government policies."

"Now, clerics in the council have found themselves in an awkward position," Rahnamo says.  "They don't want to damage their good relationship with the government by refusing to denounce the Hijab. At the same time, the clerics don't know how to go against their prime mission, who is promoting Islamic values, including the Islamic Hijab, and they end up giving all kinds of peculiar explanations."

Public opinion over the Hijab is sharply divided in Tajikistan, depending on citizen's educational or social backgrounds. However, many who don't wear the Hijab themselves say women should be given the freedom to choose what they wear.

Faizullo Faiziev, a school director and a Democratic Party activist in the northern town of Khujand, says, "All these Hijab debates should be solved one way or another, and it should not be dragged into politics because we have many other important issues to talk and think about."

RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 2008 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. Source:


Australian terror case judge: Islam not on trial

November 10, 2008

Sydney, Australia - The judge in a trial of five Muslim men accused of plotting a terrorist attack in Australia cautioned jurors Tuesday that Islam was not on trial and urged them to put aside any bias.

Prosecutors have said the suspects were devotees of a radical cleric sympathetic to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and that they made a pact to launch a terrorist attack because they felt their religion was under threat. The men have pleaded not guilty.

New South Wales state Supreme Court judge Justice Anthony Whealy asked the 15 jurors to put aside any prejudice, noting that the public has been bombarded with media coverage of radical Islam and its links to terrorism in the last few years.

"You must be strict to bring to bear absolute impartiality," Whealy told them as the trial opened Tuesday. "It would be wrong for you to assume ... the guilt or innocence of the accused simply because of your views on the way the Muslim lifestyle is dealt with in the media."

"It’s an obvious truism for me to tell you that the Muslim religion is not on trial here," he said.

The suspects, who were arrested in a series of raids in 2005, have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit acts in preparation for a terrorist attack.

Prosecutors have alleged the men downloaded bomb-making instructions off the Internet and stockpiled chemicals to make lethal explosives.

A prosecution office spokeswoman could not immediately say Tuesday what potential prison sentences they face if convicted.

Their trial is expected to last up to one year. Source:


Expect a decline of religious fundamentalism in Iran


During the past three decades the rise of militant Islam has in many ways dominated political events in the region. The consequences of Iranian religious radicalism can be observed in the Persian Gulf region, in the Arab-Israel conflict, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Although Iranian Islamic militancy appears to be as dominant as ever, this may not be the case during the next decade.

The main reason for this conjuncture lies with the present Iranian government headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to power in July 2005. Ahmadinejad's rise to power was indeed a watershed in post-Islamic revolution Iran. His presidency marked a new political configuration in the Islamic republic. Hitherto, although the Iranian regime was described as radical and Islamic, it was far from a united political group. It consisted of diverse currents that all described themselves as Islamist. They included hard-line conservatives on the "right," the "left," the pragmatists headed by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the moderates and those who with some qualification could even be described as "liberal."

During the reign of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the left had the upper hand. After his death, the pragmatists headed by Rafsanjani held the center stage; then it was the turn of the moderate-liberal currents headed by the reformist president, Muhammad Khatami. No matter who had been elected as Iran's president, all the other currents were, albeit to various degrees, present in the government.

The elections of July 2005 and the rise of Ahmadinejad to power changed that political complexion. The conservative hard-liners purged almost all the other currents from power. For the first time since the emergence of the Islamic republic in 1979, one particular political group dominated the main three branches of the Iranian political establishment.

This group, which with some justification has become known as the hard-liners, has tried to change much of Iranian domestic as well as foreign policy. At the international level, Iran's stand on its nuclear program has become much more uncompromising. The Islamic regime's anti-Western and anti-American attitude has intensified, as has its anti-Israel approach. Teheran has tried to establish ties with anti-American regimes in South America and elsewhere. Internally, the hard-liners have intensified the state's role in the economy and curtailed political freedom and have tried to expand the country's military capabilities.

WE COME now to the main point of our thesis: the anticipated demise of militant Islam during the next decade.

Given the widespread grip on power that the hard-liners have maintained since 2005, why should their power decline in the future?

The short answer lies with the performance of the hard-liners since they came to power. They have alienated much of the country's intelligentsia. Students, university graduates, professionals, intellectuals, writers, journalists, artists and many similar social groups have turned increasingly critical of their overall policies during the past three years. Civil servants, the urban middle class and the politically powerful bazaar merchants have increasingly turned against the government of Ahmadinejad.

Politically, too, the hard-liners have been in retreat. The reformists, the left, the so-called liberal-religious nationalist groups, such as Rafsanjani and his influential political groups, all now oppose the government. In fact, Ahmadinejad's policies have turned many conservatives as well as more moderate and pragmatist hard-liners against his government.

There is yet another powerful and influential group that has become openly critical of the president and some of his decisions: During the past two years, a number of senior clerical leaders have voiced their opposition to some of Ahmadinejad's decisions.

Last, but by no means least, is the Iranian parliament, or Majlis. The 300-member assembly that was inaugurated in July 2008 elected Ali Larijani by a large majority as its speaker. Since the conservatives have a considerable majority in the present Majlis, Larijani's election was an implicit message of defiance to President Ahmadinejad.

Larijani was until last April head of the High Council of Security Affairs, a powerful body that is responsible for the country's military and security issues, including conducting negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Larijani was critical of Ahmadinejad's radical approach regarding Iran's nuclear program. He preferred a more moderate stand, searching for compromise with the West. Ahmadinejad dismissed Larijani, thereby eventually paving the way for Iran to adopt a more militant and confrontational approach vis-a-vis its nuclear program.

HERE WE must address two important questions about the hard-line government of Iran. First, given his formidable internal opposition, where does Ahmadinejad get the support to survive and even to contemplate another term? Second, what are the reasons for so much opposition? The bulk of Ahmadinejad's support comes from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the various institutions he leads, including the powerful Revolutionary Guards, the Baseej, the national Iranian radio and television and government-run newspapers, as well as a number of religious and political leaders close to him.

The widespread opposition stems from Ahmadinejad's overall poor performance. The country suffers from rampant inflation; unemployment hasn't come down, nor has endemic corruption and the country's brain drain continues - witness the queue of Iranian professionals outside Western embassies in Teheran, seeking to emigrate in spite of the fact that the country's oil revenues have quadrupled during the past three years.

It was against this irony that Rafsanjani, the leading moderate Iranian leader, warned last month that the failure of the present government would not simply constitute the defeat of a particular political group but rather would be interpreted as the failure in practice of radical Islam when it had all the power at its disposal.

The writer is professor of Iranian studies at Teheran University. Source:


Portraying Muslims

By Arif Husaain Sarmast, November 11, 2008

The train of blasts in a span of few months in multiple Indian cities spilt fear, pain & agony besides blood. There were scenes of chaos and confusion multiple lying dead, scores injured and countless were those who saw these horrendous & horrifying moments turn into an unending ever lasting memory trace. People were barricaded by grief and shock that seemed to wring out the last few ml of residual air. People bore witness to the naked dance of death, destruction and fury. The worse thing is that there has not been any stoppage or a lull to the least in these nerve wrecking and deafening explosions rather the curve has steepened.

 It is not for the first time such tragedy has happened and an ordinary person doesn't need to be a great genius to predict the sequence of events that followed and are following .Thanks to the media of this part of world which gives less of unbiased news and instead thrusts propaganda and pseudo secular, pseudo nationalist agenda on the poor viewers. It’s because of this media every body has turned into Einstein at his home, without turning grey. It is not difficult to understand the reasons as to why media does have such a captivating influence because the reach and the accessibility is too much and its rise has been phenomenal . The TV and internet have been of prime importance in this regard ,even surpassing the print media .They have the advantage of being more personal and more closer to direct communication thus more influential in framing ,rather molding general public opinion whether right or wrong .

Ask a small kid who has never has never seen a Muslim before...How they look like and what they do? No marks for guessing …he will frame out a picture of a man with long beard , fiery red eyes , a tight white cap ,holding some sophisticated weapon ,talking about rape ,ransom ,extortion &death .Literacy and education has not touched him ,he seems to be far from being cultured and honest .He is honest only in killing … a blood thirsty beast .Of a woman… she is one  wearing a long black dress,,, a Hijab.. Which seems to cover not her body alone but her hopes, desires and expectations, plus nurturing her multiple kids.

As we ponder on the issue the more we try to solve it the tougher the maze gets. Were the seeds of dissent sown exactly when India & Pakistan gained independence and partitioned?       .The Britain had declared to free India in 1948 but because of its internal weakness did so a year earlier. It is said Gandhi was in favour of prolonging the British rule by few more years.  Was the independence rather premature or was it really independence at all? No doubt it was joy and bloom everywhere but it was clubbed with pain and agony of partition .It was best described by Faiz Ahmad Faiz as"

yeh daagh daagh ujala ,yeh shabguzida sehar

woh intezar tha jiska ,yeh wo sehar to nai

Partition was a calamity if not for the muslims of the other side of border but surely for those here on this side .Just after partition muslims here were afraid to carry and keep urdu books...Lest they were labelled Pak sympathizers .History is repeating itself … now muslims are being labelled as bomb sympathizers .Suicide  bombing is considered a muslim owned device paying little heed to the fact that Tamil Tigers were the first to show it to the whole world its power and dimensions .Rajiv Gandhi fell to their plot of suicide bombing as well.                    

Justice is justice only when delivered on time and it maintains the sanctity of impartiality and equality. Babri Masjid demolition started a new chapter of hate politics, conviction rate was 0.8 percent while in post 1993 Mumbai blasts it was 80 percent .The communal frenzy in Gujarat was a step higher. It was openly owned and backed by a head of the state and the plight of justice is known to every body. The height of paradox was when killing of 2 agitators in Jammu was shown and flown out of bounds .compensations were given and enquiry was conducted but here in Kashmir hundreds have died in these months not even a word of condemnation has come from the govt … if one exists.

There is no denial of the fact that Muslims in India are the worst than lowest of the classes in terms of education ,jobs ,money manpower etc .Justice sachar committee was a land mark in making most of the Muslims conscious of the facts which they new subconsciously .They got proof of the denial and exploitation they have met .Just a mention about the education scenario …national literacy rate being at 65.1%against Muslim literacy rate of 59'1%in 2001 .one of the senior Indian journalist summed it all when he said ,"scheduled  castes and tribes get reservations …Muslims get commissions".                                                                                                                                       Six decades down the line, is an ordinary Indian Muslim safer, better and happier living in a free India   than  his predecessors were  when they lived  under the British subjugation or is it that only the subjugators are home grown now, subjugation reigns supreme ..It was a bold revelation by shabana azmi that she couldn,t buy an apartment in one of the posh colonies simply because she was a Muslim .This shows denial at the highest place , for a woman who did everything ranging from shaving her head for a film or fighting the shahi imam on live television show just to get" hinduanised'..but for her name all fell down to nothing .Undoubtly the liberal space has decreased ,a Muslim president is acceptable only when he has read gita as well  and has shun meat .

Muslims ruled India for a thousand years or so and integrated it ,united it .There weren't any communal tensions .It has been only 61 years of democracy .condition is so bad comparison cant be made .How can this hatered go ,only the almighty knows.

The author can be reached at Source:


Is Turkey Bosnia’s mother?


“Is Turkey Bosnia’s mother?” This is a question that is easy to reply to. “No, it is not because Turkey does not need to be a mother to anyone other than to its citizens.”

The issue, however, is more complicated when we come to the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that faces problems which bring into question its integrity and sovereignty.

Ardent polemics are being tossed around by Sarajevo’s media and at various conferences on the identity of Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats -- the three main nationalities, or ethnic groups, that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina. There were at least two starting points that brought Bosniaks -- the official name for Bosnian Muslims -- into the focus of the polemics and which made a direct connection to Turks and Turkey. One was initiated by the highest religious authority and the other by events that are increasingly making soccer games in some Balkan countries a tool for expressing social frustrations and nationalist hatred. From the sublime to the ridiculous and destructive, we could say.

First, Dr. Mustafa Efendi Ceric, the reis-ul-ulema (grand mufti) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, made some statements over the last few years about the correlation between Bosniaks and Turks, statements open to discussion, no doubt. Speaking to participants, Bosniaks and Turks, at a reconstructed mosque in Rogatica on Sept. 2, 2006, he said: “I propose we all call ourselves Turks. And we are Turks -- by our historical memory, by our historical disposition, by the identity of Islam that Turks brought to us. However, we are also Bosniaks.” The grand mufti of Bosnia also told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his visit to Sarajevo on March 25, 2008, “Please convey to your people the following: Turkey is our mother; it has been so and it will remain so.”

Discussion spills into streets

The discussion easily made its way to the streets. Hundreds of fans waved and kissed Turkish flags, shouting “This is Turkey!” in Sarajevo, Zenica and the part of Mostar with a Bosniak majority after Turkey defeated Croatia in the European Football Championship on June 20, 2008. It was partially a reaction to the disappointed fans among the Bosnian Croats, who were, especially in Mostar, shouting “Kill, kill the Turk!” It was not clear whether they meant the real Turks or Bosniaks, who have for long been called Turks by Serbs and Croats, particularly in recent wars. In some places, “tekbirs” were used as refrains, but “This is Turkey” was more loudly heard than “Allahu Ekber,” the usual reply to the word “tekbir.”

The heated atmosphere on the streets consequently transferred to a heated debate among intellectuals about the identity of Bosniaks. The Dani weekly hosted leading Bosnian intellectuals and invented a new term, “turcenje,” pronounced “turchenye.” It can roughly be translated to “becoming a Turk” or “to make one’s self a Turk.” State TV organized a similar debate a month ago, just two days before the soccer match between Bosnia and Turkey in İstanbul.

The statements of Reis-ul-Ulema Ceric about Turkey as Bosnia’s mother as well as his frequent mention of Mehmet the Conqueror as a kind of Bosnian father are being used as a pretext for any argument on the Bosniak identity.

The approach of the Bosnian grand mufti was rather isolated. Bosniak politicians were silent. They, in any case, “do not at all have a strategy to preserve the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” as recently stressed by journalist Vildana Selimbegovic. Intellectuals, refusing to identify Bosniaks with Turks, have been quick to steer the discussion into one of how nationalism is the common enemy of all Bosnian ethnic communities. Leading theologians from the Faculty of Islamic Sciences did not this time openly show their traditional opposition to Dr. Ceric as the religious leader. However, the opinion of the reis-ul-ulema -- a position that is more than equivalent to the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs -- is considered a religious orientation for all believers, even if it is not obligatory, unlike a “fetva.” And if it was made public outside the mosque, it gets even more social and political weight as well.

A simplified attitude easily adopted by young boys (almost never girls) who are mostly less educated, often jobless and frustrated and rarely enter any mosques is that Bosniaks, as Bosnian Muslims, have no “reserve homeland” as Bosnian Serbs have Serbia and Bosnian Croats Croatia. Going further and joining religion in such a simplification, they say: If Serbia is considered as an extended hand of Orthodox Christianity and Croatia of Catholicism, why should we not ask Turkey to be our mother country? Bosnian philosopher Ugo Vlaisavljevic expressed it in these words: “This is a good opportunity; we should finally face the real nature of local ethnic identities. Ethnologists have known this for a long time: These are decentralized identities because the centers of their symbolic fuel are not here, but in İstanbul, Moscow, Vienna and Rome.”

A few other reactions to the grand mufti’s identification of Bosniaks and Turks and the pro-Turkey euphoria of sport fans are possible indirect results of that identification. Tarik Haveric, an author and translator, speaking about “two ethno-genetic processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last 100 years,” stresses that efforts by (Bosnian) Muslims to “eliminate a notional and terminological equalization of themselves with Turks” and “to rid themselves of their name [Muslims]” have been more or less realized today. For another political analyst, Sacir Filandra, Bosniaks “have no one and nothing positive to applaud and to identify themselves with” because the “symbolic Bosniak horizon of the collective auto-perception is filled with pain and sadness, loss and genocide, marking out mass killings and concentration camps as well by the opening of mosques, in one word -- by the ulterior and metaphysic.” For him, “the symbolic identification with Turkish sport fans” has origins in such a “negative life view.”

Pecanin: Ceric causing confusion

A leading Bosnian journalist, Senad Pecanin, was more concrete in considering reasons for the grand mufti’s “redefinition of the Bosniak national identity and then reducing it to the religious component.”

“Ceric is not a Turkish nationalist, and he does not do it out of pro-Turkish feelings,” he emphasizes, “but because he has an unhidden ambition to become the leader of all European Muslims and to negotiate with Europeans about their status.” “Showing to his students that Turkey is their mother and not Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Pecanin concludes, he “is bringing confusion among Bosniaks and hatred, derisive smiles and disdain from their neighbours.”

It is not easy for me personally to speak about this matter because I have many friends who are scholars in Turkey who could refer to the developments in the Balkans and tell me, “Well, while serving in Turkey as the ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, you said Bosnians are Turkey’s orphans.” This is true; I did use the Turkish word “yetim” to describe Bosnians. There was a need in the midst of aggression against Bosnia to encourage aid to its besieged and exhausted citizens. I also used this word to refer to our common history, but I never identified Bosnians with Turks, and there are many reasons for this.

First and foremost, I represented all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and sought support for Bosniaks and a considerable number of Serbs and Croats, who also suffered from the aggression of Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian forces and Radovan Karadzic’s Bosnian Serb forces.

Additionally, there are some obvious reasons for not equating Bosniaks and Turks, this despite all the deep historical links and steady friendship.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina of today is very different from the Bosnia that was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Both Turkey and Bosnia differ greatly today from how they were under Mehmet the Conqueror, who brought to Bosnia the Ahdname, a document guaranteeing freedom of activity to Bosnian Franciscan Catholics.

The two countries were also different at the end of the 19th century, when Bosnia was taken over by Austro-Hungary and Turkey was transformed into a republic, shedding its Ottoman past. Bosnian Muslims, as part of the multiethnic and multi-religious Bosnian community and have developed their own national identity, recognized by Turkey as well as by the international community. It is perhaps not worthy of mention that no one in Turkey today considers Bosnia as a part of the broader Turkic world, although there were efforts in that regard by some pan-Turkic organizations during the war. If nothing else, the Bosnian language is Slavic, despite having thousands of loanwords of Turkish origin.

I was additionally encouraged to tackle this sensitive issue by Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s recent statement. He confirmed once more during a meeting with the chairman of the Bosnian Presidency, Haris Silajdzic, that Turkey is maintaining efforts to protect Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty, political unity and territorial integrity. He also indicated that he is well aware of the current situation in Bosnia, including the discussion on identity. “We support the multicultural structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina and are therefore keeping an equal distance with respect to all ethnic groups,” he said.

*Hajrudin Somun is the former ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Turkey and a lecturer on the history of diplomacy at the Philip Noel-Baker International University in Sarajevo. Source:


Reclaiming Islam     

By Jamie Glazov, November 11, 2008

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Raheel Raza, a leading Muslim reformer, award winning writer, professional speaker, diversity consultant, documentary film maker and interfaith advocate.

She is the author of Their Jihad . . . Not My Jihad.

Visit her site at

Raza: Thank you

FP: First, tell us a little bit about your own religious and political journey. Why, for instance, have you ended up being a moderate and not an extremist Muslim? Why you do not veil yourself etc?

Raza: I was born into a Muslim family in Pakistan where I became a Muslim by rote -- i.e. without really understanding what the faith stands for and what our prayers mean because they are in Arabic which is not my first language. I grew up in a culture where women were supposed to be seen and not heard so questioning was not encouraged. However I was a rebel since an early age and did question the status quo but luckily for them, left Pakistan.

I truly learnt about the beauty and depth of my faith when I came to Canada 20 years ago which is ironic when you think that I came from a so-called Muslim country to this secular land. How? Like many other immigrant parents, we were concerned that our kids might lose their faith. So we used to take them to Sunday school where they read the Qur’an (the Muslim scripture meaning The Reading) in English and studied the life of our Prophet. They were fortunate to have excellent mentors and teachers who were academics and scholars, well versed in both secular and scriptural subjects. In the process my husband and I learnt the spiritual message of Islam and discovered to our amazement, that there is great beauty and wisdom there.

Our knowledge and research allowed us to shed much of our excess baggage in terms of rituals and cultural norms being passed off as faith and we were able to remove the veil on our minds and see the beauty of this spiritual message and also find much to our amazement, how similar it is to the message of the monotheistic faiths that came before Islam – Judaism and Christianity. This set me on the journey where I am now – as an interfaith advocate creating understanding and dialogue between faiths because I realize that much of the racism and hate around us is based on ignorance.

It’s interesting that you ask why I am moderate and not an extremist. Personally, I don’t care for labels because to be a Muslim, one must be moderate – it goes hand in hand. However, 9/11 has changed the way all of us think. After 9/11 I sat my sons down and asked them “why aren’t you terrorists?” and they were shocked. “What kind of a question is this” they said and I responded “according to the media, you fit the profile of the Muslim terrorist – you’re observant Muslims, brown young men of Pakistani heritage, you go to mosque on Fridays and have beards”. I had asked this with real interest giving my sons food for thought and they responded by telling me “One, we understood the spiritual message of the Qur’ran, we knew that terrorism and violence are forbidden and secondly you [our parents] were always around to see who taught us Islam and exactly what was taught”. This is an important point because it’s the parent’s duty to coach children instead of leaving them in the hands of unidentified clerics who inflame their young minds with garbage. I believe that knowledge is the best weapon of mass instruction.

We were also careful not to impose the faith on our kids but let them understand and accept it through education and knowledge. We taught them that Canada is a country where you can stand side by side with many people and hold up your head in pride in your faith, without imposing it on anyone. So the reason I’m not an extremist, is because Islam and extremism are two ends of the spectrum. One of the first things I learnt from the Qur’an is that there has to be balance in everything (for example in nature and in humans) and extremism is not in sync with Islamic teachings.

We don’t have formal clergy in Islam which can be both a blessing and a burden. Blessing because all Muslims are supposed to read, understand and implement the Qur’an in their lives. Very few people do this which is why we have serious problems in the Muslim world today because self-appointed caretakers of the faith, who are usually the most ignorant, give any garbled message they want. To undo that harm, I read and understand that veiling has nothing to do with my being a good Muslim or not. I carry my faith in heart, not on my head. But there are men who will convince women and the public that the only credible Muslim woman is one who is veiled. I refuse to be pulled into discussions about a piece of cloth when we have other more serious issues to take care of.

FP: As a leading Muslim reformer, you are engaged in quite a battle against Islamists on Canadian territory. Share with us what this battle is about.

Raza: Aah. You’ve hit a raw nerve. By the way, thank you for calling me a reformer – I don’t know if others see me the same way but let me make a small clarification. I believe that there is much more to reclaim than reform. The reform we need is not with the faith but within ourselves as Muslims. We’ve left behind many of the positive teachings of Islam and traded them in for a political ideology. This is a hard battle and sometimes I feel like I’m peddling a bicycle uphill when a fully loaded sports car had sped by me 30 minutes ago and I’m playing catch up.

To fully understand the political Islamist ideology (and I say ideology with feeling because it’s not Islam as I know it) you have to know that the Wahhabi/Salafi ideology, which blows like a wind from the dessert, is the idea that Islam is the only solution and that Muslims must rule the world and force everyone to become Muslim. This is not the teaching of our faith where we are told “there is no compulsion in religion” but this is about power and politics.

It’s a challenge like we’ve never faced before and it’s a great worry because the Islamists have infiltrated into our government and institutions and are calling the shots (literally). I’ve been engaged in exposing the sinister agenda of the Islamists since before 9/11 when I first saw the winds of Wahhabism and Salafism attack my native land of Pakistan which was turned from a modern, balanced country into a battleground for the soul of Islam. Initially Islamism was introduced in Pakistan by General Zia ul Haq but then on the backs of Saudi petro money, it grew into a political movement that has destroyed the country and makes my heart weep because it, is after all, my land of birth.

In Canada I feel like I’m fighting not only for the soul of Islam but for the safety of Canada. All around us we are battling against the MSA’s (Muslim Student Associations) in educational institutions which are quite radical, ISNA, ICNA whose purpose is to promote the Wahhabi/Salafi ideology in this land. When the political leaders want to meet leaders of the community, they go to the same leaders who preach hate and division. Multiculturalism has only fuelled ghettoization.

This is a lonely, uphill battle where I need help and support from the mainstream. This is our battle, because believe me when something happens you and I are in this together.

FP: How do you think Canadians stand on accommodating Islamist demands?

Raza: Canadians are known to be naïve and wishy washy but there is a fine line between naïve and dim-witted and we are bordering on dim-witted. Canadians are so afraid of being called racist, that they won’t stand up to religious extremism, not just from the Islamists but from some other faith communities that use Canada as the breeding ground for their politically volatile battles back home and bring all their excess baggage to his land.

Canada allows us freedom of religion and that is enough – we don’t need any other accommodation but Canadian politicians bend over backwards for the sake of votes totally disregarding the voices of Muslims like me, who are saying be careful of what you agree to and what’s under your nose because it will come back to bite you.

For me it’s very simple. We come to Canada for a better life and by choice. We must follow the laws of the land and work towards a single school system. Not two tiers. As well, when we get the much coveted Canadian citizenship, there are responsibilities which should come with it. No one speaks of loyalty to the land in which we live, which we call home and where the future of our kids lies. I don’t want my boys to have a Gray future because some radical Muslims want to change Canada to accommodate their own twisted agendas.

FP: You and your husband travel around speaking about The Passion and Politics of Islam. Can you talk a bit about the meaning here?

Raza: For me, as a believer, my passion is to let people know that the spiritual message of Islam is not what is practiced by many Muslims today. In some ways it seems there are two parallel Islams being practiced?

One, that is the spiritual message practiced by the majority who live their 9 to 5 lives in peace for themselves and for others; who understand that Islam is a way of life where caring for a neighbour is as important as going to the mosque; where taking one life is like killing all of humanity; where charity is more important than piety; where everyone is equal and respect for other faiths and traditions makes us better Muslims. This path accepts that there are many ways to reach the creator and that there is diversity within Islam and around it, and that we must reach out and embrace rather than kill. The Qur’an says “we have created you into nations and tribes so you may know one another”.

The other Islam is the hard core political message that was born on the death bed of the Prophet and is only good for power and control. This path dehumanizes women and minorities and doesn’t respect Muslims who follow a different path. This has led to theocracies like Iran and Saudi Arabia where the men rule through fear and faith has been made into a terrorizing force rather than the message of reform.

FP: What it does it mean to be a Muslim woman in Canada today?

Raza: It’s a double whammy for me. My voice means less to the Muslims because I’m a woman and the mainstream doesn’t consider me a leader because I’m not an Imam and don’t sport a beard.

Just recently an article of mine about the Islamist agenda in our recent elections was published in the “American Thinker” and I’ve already been called a Zionist and Neo-con agent.

Still I stand tall and proud to be a Muslim woman in Canada today. Perhaps this is because I’ve been able to understand and implement the rights given to me by my faith and I find great wisdom in the ways in the status of women was raised by the message of the book.

Islam came as a message in a land where new born girls were being buried alive and women were considered to be without a soul and sold as slaves. It came to take women out of the darkness and some women like me have taken our rights and run with them. I know that the first woman of Islam (the Prophets wife Khadija) was a businesswoman, older than her husband who sent him a proposal of marriage; I know that Muslim women can have pre-nuptial agreements, keep our first name, our earned wages (when you know this only happened in UK in the last century).

I’m also very fortunate to be supported by great men – my husband and my sons are my pillars of strength and I can be whoever I want to be. However, I take my rights and responsibilities seriously, accepting that they go hand in hand. So I have been empowered by Islam but subdued by patriarchy in my land of birth and in my community. It’s a constant struggle to keep my head above water.

For my work to bring about change, I’ve received a fatwa, death threats and regular hate mail.

However, Canada has been kind to me and I say without fear that I could never say and do the things I do, anywhere in the world except Canada. Let me add by saying that the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms is not at odds with my Muslim identity although I don’t wear it in public. But I think I’m a better Muslim because I’m Canadian and a better Canadian because I’m Muslim.

FP: Thank you Raheel for joining us and thank you for your nobility and bravery -- and for your courageous fight for a peaceful and democratic Islam.

Raza: Thank you so much.



Background stories


October, 2008, RAHEEL RAZA

Earlier this year, when Judy Csillag, Director Community Outreach and Partnerships for The Canadian Centre for Diversity asked me if I would like to participate in a Women of Faith build for Habitat for Humanity, I said yes with no idea of what this would entail. Little did I know that this would turn out to be one of the most meaningful and unusual experiences of my life.

Since I came to Canada twenty years ago, there has always been an urge to give back to this wonderful country that is my adopted land and that has given me and my family a roof over our heads, jobs, security and most of all freedom. I realize that many people don't have these luxuries in their native lands or take them for granted in Canada. So I volunteer wherever I can but the Habitat experience takes volunteering to a whole new level. Habitat has a vision for a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. Their mission is to mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty. To uphold the dignity of every human being, Habitat works with partnerships and a belief of faith in action.

The mission of The Canadian Centre for Diversity is to build bridges between communities and to build a society that celebrates diversity, difference, and inclusion so it's no wonder that with Habitat, they came up with the idea of a Women of Faith build. Co-Chairs of the project were Rabbi Lori Cohen, Reverend Cathy Gibbs and Tanya Khan. It was a smooth, well planned and well executed project. Thirty women from six faith communities were invited to participate and we met at the Bishop Strachan School for our mandatory training session. But it was not just training. Thanks to the insight of The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Habitat, we got to know each other through various interactions. The energy was amazing and all the women who were there came with a passion for building bridges - not only cement ones but those of the heart and mind. This is when my own interfaith work was truly validated. We were given instructions, directions, enthusiasm, inspiration and a little pink hammer pin! We were women from Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Aboriginal traditions who shared our vision to come together to build homes for those in need.

Bright and early on October 16, I got up feeling like this was going to be a special day. Special it was because it started out with clouds in the sky and then I guess prayers went up from at least six faith traditions and the heavens opened up to smile with the sun. The location for our build was on Kingston Road and we got there sharp on time. At the site we were welcomed by a real crew, members from Habitat for Humanity Toronto, The Canadian Centre for Diversity, our co-chairs, some media and coffee. We got our instructions, a T-shirt saying Women of Faith Build 2008, hard hats with our names on them, steel toed boots and gloves. I've never worn a hardhat and boots so I clunked around feeling like I was going to fall (for some of the more petite women, sizes were a challenge because the shoes belonged to the male workers but they made it work by wearing double socks and sometimes mismatched shoes like moi). We were divided in groups of 5 with a leader who from the core building team. We started by standing in a circle while Valerie John from Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre began the day with a smudge ceremony and a universal prayer for peace and off we went. The spirit and enthusiasm was infectious.

At the site, there were five half finished apartments and our mission was to build the back walls. "Yikes" I thought "I've never built anything let alone held a real hammer", but like the others, I was raring to go. We were told we have two coffee breaks and lunch (more than some women get at work!) so off we went following our leaders. The site is quite hazardous if one is not careful because there is beams, wood, equipment all over the place. Mike our group leader was an older experienced worker and he patiently guided us. Our project was carry heavy drywall to the room, measure, cut and paste a plastic vapour barrier over the basic wall and put dirty black glue on it. (Dirty, because if it gets on anything, you can't get it off. I was glad I wore a black sweat shirt.) On top of that we had to put drywall and drill it in with nails. Sounds easy but cutting drywall to fit around corners is a challenge. I thought using a drill would be a cinch - not! It takes a steady hand and lots of pressure. If Mike has not guided us, we would have made serious mistakes. I developed a whole new respect for the men who do this work daily.

Now being women, there was a lot of chitter-chatter and we would wander off to see what was happening at the next lot. Some were younger and faster than others. There was a lot of sharing and compassion i.e. when I could not carry heavy stuff, others pitched in. We shared, cared, laughed, worked, exchanged recipes, spoke of our kids and took a break when we were exhausted. But it was one of the most inspiring moments in my life when the first wall was completed. Our communal cry of "Oyeh" was heard all over Kingston Road. People walking by stopped to see this motley crew of women working so hard for a common cause for humanity. It was amusing to see the new fashion statement by women in Hijab wearing a hard hat - it was much more comfortable than ours because the Hijab acted as a lining. My hard hat kept falling off but one woman told me to wear it backwards and it worked.

At breaks we exchanged notes. A warm vegetarian lunch was provided by Grace Church-on-the-Hill. I went to grab a coffee at the corner coffee shop and the owners were totally impressed by the work we were doing. In our group were three young (17 years old) students from CHAT - Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. Mira, Danielle and Shira said "it's an awesome experience to meet all these women". For most of the women, the cause was inspiring because we had done some fund raising to get here, but more importantly it was the interaction with diverse women that made their day so meaningful. Helen Warner, Public Affairs Director for Church of Latter Day Saints said "I find we have so much more in common than what separates us. Along with homes, we are building relationships."

Naheed Khokhar from the Ahmaddiya community felt elated at what she called "a brilliant experience" while Valerie John from Council Fire expressed "this is the first time I'm doing something like this. It's so poignant because it affects a real family so our work will live with them for as long as they reside in this house - it's a generational thing." On generations, many women were interested in bringing their youth for a build and we were told it's easy. They must be over 16, and ready to work one day from 08:30 to 4:30 (although I must boast that as women, we finished early!)

Barbara Wilson, family outreach coordinator for Habitat informed me that most of the work at Habitat for Humanity is volunteer and 60% of volunteers are women. Sally Wasserman, an energetic eightysomething Holocaust survivor, said "it's absolutely wonderful to be part of a community build. If I can contribute even one nail it's worthwhile specially meeting all these wonderful women who I would not have met otherwise". I noted emails and cards being exchanged, women giving each high fives and hugs. Gurwinder Gill who is Director Diversity Services for William Osler Health Centre this was an experience of cultural diversity where women crossed all boundaries of faith and culture putting aside biases in working together for a cause that touched all of them. "It makes me optimistic that if there is a will, we can move towards peace."

For more information please visit:

To organize a community build through Habitat for Humanity, contact: Barbara Wilson, Family Outreach Coordinator.



Raheel Raza. Enemies are everywhere

My latest visit to my home country of Pakistan revealed a paranoid society with a new president famous for corruption -- but you have to start somewhere

October 17, 2008

My annual visit to Pakistan is full of surprises. What change will I find this time, I asked myself as I landed at Karachi airport a few weeks ago?

The situation in Pakistan is more complex than I've ever seen. The economy is in crisis with basic food costs so high that one wonders how the ordinary person feeds a family. The elite don't care because most of them have taken dual nationality and siphoned their money out of Pakistan. The poor keep getting poorer and complain that no one in power has ever cared about them, so why should they care this time?

What bothered me most of all was the attitude of educated middle class Pakistanis. In the past few years I had noticed the rise of religious fervour among previously moderate Pakistanis. This time I was engulfed and bombarded by conspiracy theories everywhere I turned. At times I felt I was an alien in my own land!

From media to mullahs, everyone seems to thrive on their version of who the enemy is. A friend (who by the way is a Canadian citizen and extremely well educated) proceeded to inform me "this is the sixth part of the Zionist conspiracy to wipe out Pakistan." She was keen to educate me on the "other five," but I excused myself and left -- only to find myself at dinner with a group who were convinced that it's all an Indian plot. The third visit was just as nauseating because these were my cousins who told me that Pakistan is victim of a triad -- the U.S., India and Israel -- that was conniving to wipe Pakistan off the map. Everyone is to blame except themselves.

By this time I stopped going out and decided to stay home and see what's happening on TV. Well, that was a wrong move. On mainstream television, a well educated, smart and eloquent young scholar speaks every evening at prime time about U.S. plans to invade Pakistan, and everyone is glued to their TVs, absorbing this garbage. It's on this mainstream network a panel of scholars announced that Ahmadiyya Muslims are justified to be killed.

The alternative progressive moderate Muslim voice is relegated to midnight and I was told chillingly that he's a western mole and the TV station that airs his program has been bought out by United States.

It's no surprise then that a few days later in the midst of this chaos, Pakistanis chose Mr. Ten Per Cent as their president. Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, now sits smilingly, with a complete makeover, as president of Pakistan.

It's an astounding comeback for a man who spent 11 years in jail on corruption and murder charges as one of Pakistan's most disliked figures. More surprising, the corruption charges against Mr. Zardari that were dismissed ranged from allegations that he took $10 million in kickbacks from a gold importing company to allegations that he improperly used government funds to build a polo ground at the prime minister's residence in Islamabad.

Having put this into perspective, let's not discount this individual completely. Mr. Zardari is the son of an astute landlord and politician, Hakim Ali Zardari. Like Dennis Thatcher, Asif Ali Zardari has lived and learned from the most vibrant and brilliant of politicians -- Benazir Bhutto. Mr. Zardari has cunningly aligned himself with the right people and is making carefully crafted moves.

Furthermore, the alternative to Mr. Zardari is the army, which has already ruled for half of Pakistan's existence, destroying civilian and public institutions. So, while Mr. Zardari may make diplomatic faux pas like trying to flirt with U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, he may be the poison Pakistan needs to heal itself.

Painful as it may seem, Pakistan has to go through a process of democracy. Pakistanis must pull themselves out of a deep dark hole of victimization to realize what's hit them, and then make a decision (without foreign intervention please and thanks) to keep or get rid of Mr. Zardari.

Only then will a cycle of true democracy begin, and will there be hope for the future.

Raheel Raza is an intercultural and interfaith diversity consultant and author of Their Jihad ... Not My Jihad.



SIO President on Critique of Radical Islamism and Islamophobia

By Bishruddin Sharqi- November 11, 2008

Interview with Yoginder Sikand

Bishruddin Sharqi is the President of the Students' Islamic Organization (SIO) of India, the students' wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. The SIO is the single largest Islamic students' organization in India. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he talks about the issue of terrorism and the urgent need for improving inter-community relations in India.

Q: In the wake of a chain of deadly bomb blasts across India in recent months, the media is awash with stories of Muslim youths whom it accuses of being behind these attacks. How do you look at how the media has reported this issue?

A: It is clear that in many cases perfectly innocent Muslim youths have been picked up by the police and wrongly accused by them of being behind various blasts. I am not saying that not a single Muslim has been involved in any terrorist activities. It might be possible that, due to denied justice, a few Muslims might have engaged in some such acts. All terror attacks, no matter who their perpetrators may be, must be sternly condemned and those behind them must be punished according to the law. But my point is that in a vast number of cases, totally innocent Muslims have been wrongly accused of complicity. On the other hand, as is increasingly being shown, at least some of these blasts have been the handiwork of fiercely anti-Muslim Hindutva groups. 

In a large number of cases of arrests of Muslims accused of being 'terrorists,' all we have are confessions given by the accused before the police, rather than statements given before magistrates, and this cannot be accepted as evidence in the courts because we know that very often such 'confessions' are forced after torture. But the media simply parrots the police version, without any proper investigation; to create the absolutely false spectre of Muslim youths being allegedly all set to detonate deadly bombs across the country. Things have become so bad that one can now even talk of 'media terrorism', with Islam and Muslims as the chosen target.

The SIO has also been a victim of this sort of vicious media propaganda, along with several other Muslim organizations that have nothing whatsoever to do with any sort of terrorism. To cite one instance, some months ago a leading TV channel claimed that an advertisement had appeared in an Urdu paper published from Malegaon appealing to Muslim youths to shift their allegiance from the banned SIMI to the SIO. Actually, that advertisement was a public appeal to register for a Quranic recitation programme. We've taken this TV channel to court and the noted lawyer and human rights activist N.D Pancholi is handling our case. This is just one instance of how very influential sections of the media are making a very concerted effort to manufacture the image of Indian Muslims as 'terrorists' and demonizing them without adducing any evidence.

Q: Why do you think this is happening?

A: Some sections of the media seem to be doing this knowingly and deliberately, and this has to do with a host of factors, including deep-rooted communal biases and prejudices. This probably also has to do with their desperate drive for profit, which they think they can hike by broadcasting sensational stories, even if these lack any veracity.

Q: How do you think this sort of what you call 'media terrorism' can be countered?

A: This is not an easy task, given the communal and economic interests that are involved. Perhaps we now need to think of evolving new and alternate media that are not driven by the lust for maximizing profit and that represent the interests, voices and concerns of the marginalizednot just Muslims alone but other such communities, such as Dalits and Adivasis, as well as peoples' struggles for justice and justice-based peace that are emerging across the country today. Obviously, in this regard, the Muslim media is far behind. The Urdu media is now almost wholly a Muslim concern, and so it cannot reach out to other people to counter the demonization of Islam and Muslims. The very limited English-language media owned by Muslims also has very few non-Muslims among its readers or listeners. Muslim leaders and organizations need to give much more attention than they hitherto have to the issue of developing and using the media to voice their views and to get them across to a broader, including non-Muslim, audience. Only then can the sort of 'media terrorism' that I referred to be countered. Fortunately, this is increasingly being realised by some Muslims today.

Q: The now-banned SIMI had adopted a very hardliner position, claiming that Muslims in India and elsewhere must struggle for the establishment of what it called a Caliphate (Khilafah). How do you view this approach?

A: Raising the slogan for Khilafah is not itself a crime. Any ideological movement will naturally raise slogans closely related to its creed. Ramarajya of Gandhiji and the Marxist dream of a classless society are examples of this. But how you will articulate them is the important question. Resorting to violence or preaching hatred of other communities for this purpose cannot be allowed, and Islam also forbids this.

As far as Islam is concerned, I think the approach always should be productive and positive. Theoretically itself, Islam admits pluralism. In a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society like India, groups working to create religious awareness have to recognize and respect the existing religious and cultural pluralism. But this concept of pluralism does mean that you should abandon your cultural identity and ideological stance.

I think the major task before Muslim groups should be to seek to communicate the message of their faith to people of other faiths peacefully. Rather than enter into controversies with them, we should seek to work together with them on issues of common concern. This is what the Qur'an instructs us to do.  You have to work along with other communities, gaining their cooperation and goodwill, rather than antagonizing them.

I feel that globally Islamic movements are realizing this.  They are now understanding that the confrontational and violent path is futile and, indeed, counter-productive. They are now appreciating how crucial it is to work with and for people of other faiths, in the process reflecting, through their deeds, rather than just through their words or through their literature, the social message of Islam. So, now in Egypt, for instance, the leading Islamist movement Ikhwan ul-Muslimoon even has Coptic Christian Members of Parliament, and in Lebanon, Hizbullah works closely with some important Christian groups. 

Q: Is that sort of thing happening with Islamic movements in India, too?

A: In India we have some twenty-five thousand non-Muslim associates and sympathisers who participate in and cooperate with our programs. In Kerala, where I belong, the SIO now has many non-Muslim sympathisers. The Solidarity Youth Movement, the vibrant youth wing of Jamaat in Kerala, has more than 500 non-Muslim members. In several colleges under the MG University, Kottayam, the Kerala University, Trivandrum, and the Calicut and Kannur universities, all in Kerala, the SIO has near about 20 Christian and Hindu members in students' union posts. We see ourselves not as a Muslim organization, but, rather, as an Islamic students' movement, and we regard Islam as being for the whole of humankind, not just for those who call themselves Muslim. This is why our work is not restricted to Muslims alone.

I think we need to broaden our focus further so that we can associate more effectively with non-Muslim students as well. In recent years our policy and programs concentrates more on taking up issues of concern to all students, not confining ourselves to just Muslims. In this regard, Kerala is well in advance of other states, where not just the SIO but several other important Muslim organizations have for quite a while now been devoting their attention to build relations and working together with people of other faiths for common social causes, particularly for peace and communal harmony.

Q: So, do you see Kerala as an exception?

A: I think Muslim organizations in other parts of India have much to learn from the Kerala example. Unlike in much of the rest of the country, the Kerala Muslims are an integral part of the 'mainstream'. They know the art of peaceful coexistence. They have been influenced not just by various Islamic reformist movements but also by the climate created by various reformist movements in other communities as well as by progressive social and political movements. In Kerala, unlike in much of the rest of India, Muslims play an active and important part in the decision-making process. What is most striking about Kerala, as I suggested, is its legacy of close relations and interaction between the different religious communities in the state, though, unfortunately, things are beginning to change there, too. The key question is of learning how to interact in a peaceful and friendly manner while still keeping one's identity intact.

I think one very effective and meaningful way of doing this is for people of different faiths to work together for common social causes are it against immorality or against imperialism or struggling together for social justice. Let me cite a small but very meaningful example. Two years ago, the Kerala unit of the SIO organized a conference for medical college students in Trichur on the theme 'Not Medical Ethics but Life Ethics Itself'.  Some 40% of the girls and boys who participated in the program were Christians and Hindus. All the boys, Muslims as well as others, stayed in the mosque, and while the Muslim boys prayed in the mosque we had arranged rooms for the Hindu and Christian boys to say their prayers also. This program was very successful, and for many of the participants it was their first experience of staying together with people of other faiths. If such experiments and efforts could be made at a larger level, they could have a significant impact in terms of promoting inter-community understanding and solidarity.

Q: So, what advice would you give Muslims to seek to counter the increasing demonization of the Muslims that is being encouraged by influential sections of the media?

A: My opinion is that rather than simply constantly repeating that they are not engaged in any sort of terrorism, Muslims must seek to give a social answer to this wrong allegation, and that is by engaging in constructive, peaceful and positive social work that benefits others as well. We need to develop and use positive energy rather than be forced to be constantly on the defensive.

For that, we need to have a positive agenda as an Ummah. The concept of "Ummah" stands for a society with a clear vision and strong and imaginative leadership that can lead according to this vision. In this way, by our actions, by making a positive contribution to society, we can show and make people feel what Islam, properly interpreted and really is. This would help counter the concerted efforts that are being made to portray Islam as allegedly synonymous with terrorism.

Ignorance of other communities is a major cause of communal prejudice, and so I am all for healthy and close interaction between Muslims and others. We need to communicate with each other, and religion is a grand discourse for such communication. Muslims need to come out of their ghetto complex. We must become more pro-active in promoting bridges between the different communities. We should abstain from emotionalism. Unfortunately, sometimes I feel that we react emotionally to issues when we should respond intellectually. Thus, for instance, as regards Tasleema Nasreen, I feel that the best way for us to respond is by answering her by writing, not by holding violent demonstrations. The same holds true for several other such challenges before us.

That's how the Prophet spread his message by using his wisdom and intellect, not by charging up his companions emotionally. Take, for instance, the case of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah between the Prophet and his Meccan opponents of the Qureish clan. When the treaty was being signed, the Qureish insisted that the Prophet write his name simply as 'Muhammad, son of Abdullah', instead of 'Muhammad, Prophet of Allah'. The Prophet agreed to this demand. He also agreed that if any Muslim from Medina, where the Prophet had his base, came to Mecca, which was then controlled by his opponents, the Meccans need not return him to Medina, and at the same time also agreed that any Meccan Qureish in Medina would be returned to Mecca. Several of the Prophet's close companions were upset by the terms of the treaty, thinking that they was an insult to the Muslims. Yet, the Prophet agreed to these terms. The Quran described the treaty as a 'Great Victory', for the next year the Prophet entered Mecca along with his followers peacefully.

I think this single instance provides valuable lessons about how Muslims should respond to the challenges that they are faced with today.

Q: To come back to the issue of SIMI, what do you feel about the approach of radical Islamist groups, including SIMI, that condemn secularism and democracy outright as 'anti-Islamic'? In this connection, what do you feel about the views of Syed Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who had similar views?

A: The point is that Maududi Sahib, or any writer for that matter, needs to be studied and understood in his own social and temporal location and context. The sort of secularism that Maududi Sahib was confronted with when he fiercely opposed it was one that was vehemently opposed to religion, the sort that we can see in Turkey even now, but today there are other forms of secularism that are not so, that respect religion and religious freedom. Obviously, the way we view these forms of secularism must be different. The same is true for nationalism, which, in Maududi Sahib's time, was often equated with national chauvinism or even the deification of the nation. But today, in the age of so-called 'globalisation', the very notion and meaning of the nation-state have changed and are vastly different, so obviously the fiercely antagonistic posture adopted with regard to it by certain radical groups is not appropriate or realistic.

Most of these so-called Maududian views and comments were formed when India was still under the British.  Maulana Maududi himself revisited and changed some of his own ideas after that. His advice to the Indian Jamaat after Partition was also to work peacefully and lawfully in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society.  

As I said, today, at the global level, Islamic movements are increasingly coming to realize that they need to revise the ways they have traditionally looked at issues such as secularism, democracy, religious pluralism and politics. The Jamaat-e-Islami of India is no exception to this trend. No movement, if it wants to stay alive, can remain obsessed with its founding individual and refuse to change. That's why, for instance, there are forms of neo-Marxism that have sought to move beyond Marx. Likewise, we need to re-define our approach. This the Jamaat-e Islami has itself been practically doing. So, while Maulana Maududi forbade voting for or participating in elections held under a secular Constitution, the Indian Jamaat shifted its position on this decade ago. It first allowed for its members to vote, and then for them to support certain parties. And now, in this age of neo-liberal economics, which is playing such havoc with the lives of the poor, we are taking an active role in working with non-Muslim human rights groups and popular movements. All of this naturally constitutes a major shift from the earlier approach of the Jamaat and Maududi himself.

Q: Has this global shift in the policies of various Islamic movements that you mentioned also impacted on the ways in which these movements conceive of what they call 'Islamic politics', particularly the notion of the 'Islamic state'?

A: Actually, the concept of Islamic State is highly misunderstood. It does not indicate a dictatorship where no other opinions and expressions will be allowed. The focal point of Maulana Maududi's views is the Qur'anic concept of Inil Hukmu illa lillah that the real and ultimate source of power belongs to God, rather than to the state.   When nation-states were the centres of power he talked about the state in connection with power. The need of the hour is to recognize the new non-state power centers of today and to realize Islamic ideas accordingly. 

There is a growing feeling among various Islamic movements that what is of central importance now is to work at the social, economic and cultural planes, to provide services and solutions to people in these spheres, and that this sort of work might later help strengthen them politically. Because today no longer is the state as an institution that powerful, for power is increasingly shifting to other spheresto the economy, the media, and knowledge and so on. And so it is in these arenas that constructive work needs to be done.

In this regard I would like to cite the leading Tunisian 'Islamist' ideologue, Rashid Ghanouchi, who now argues that Islamic groups must desist from militant confrontation with the state, and, instead, must seek to cultivate or acquire social acceptance by providing concrete services to people. If people then accept them and themselves choose to be governed by an Islamic state then can such a state come into being.

So, in other words, I see that, increasingly, several Islamic movements are beginning to become more attuned to social realities and possibilities, and are also now increasingly realizing the importance of promoting inter-community solidarity, which I consider as a major issue today the world over.

Bishruddin Sharqi can be contacted on