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The Refugee Who Rocked Islam: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Al-Qaida: Islam can fix financial crisis

Our economy is strong – King Abdullah

Group seeks tough child-porn laws

Is Yoga incompatible with Islam?

Dhaka: 8 Muslims arrested for damaging Dhaka sculpture

Muslims split on mosque proposal by Barney Zwartz

Muslims not a minority, Parsis and Jews are: RSS chief Sudarshan

Rome: Muslim convert turns to politics in Italy

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



The Refugee Who Rocked Islam: an Exclusive Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Johann Hari, November 30, 2008

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was stabbed into the world's consciousness four years ago. One wet afternoon in November 2004, her friend Theo Van Gogh - descendant of Vincent - left his house and was about to start cycling down the streets of Amsterdam. But a young Dutch-born Muslim called Mohammed Bouyeri was waiting for him - with a handgun and two sharpened butcher knives. Wordlessly, he shot Van Gogh twice in the chest. Van Gogh howled, "Can't we talk about this?" Bouyeri ignored his pleas and fired four more times. Then he pulled out a butcher's knife and slit Van Gogh's throat with such strength his head was almost severed from his body. He used the other knife to stab a five-page letter into Van Gogh's haemorrhaging corpse. Ayaan explains, "The letter was addressed to me."

It said Van Gogh had been "executed" for making a film with her that exposed the widespread abuse of Muslim women. Now she would be "executed" too, for being an apostate. Even now, "Every time I close my eyes, I see the murder, and I hear Theo pleading for his life," she says. "'Can't we talk about this?' he asked his killer. It was so Dutch, so sweet and innocent." At the trial, Bouyeri spat at Van Gogh's mother: "I don't feel your pain. I don't have any sympathy for you. I can't feel for you because I think you're a non-believer."

This is the story of how a 25 year-old bogus asylum seeker from Africa came to Europe in search of freedom - only to be nearly murdered here by a Dutchman, on the streets of Amsterdam, for speaking out against religion. It opens in the blood-strewn streets of Somalia, and it closes in the shiny white marble of Washington D.C - yet it also ends where it began: with Ayaan's life in imminent, immediate danger. This is the story of the refugee who rocked Islam.

Her light, slight figure walks into the room so quietly that I would not have noticed her. But then the bodyguards follow: big and tall, with their eyes darting into every corner in search of the long-awaited assassin, and you realise - yes, she is here. The internet is littered with pledges to torture and slay Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Yet just a few weeks before we meet in London, the Dutch government has stripped away her security detail. She is paying for her own bodyguards now - and she could soon run out of cash. So how did this soft-voiced woman come to be so hated - and to be abandoned by the country that gave her sanctuary?

The life of her mother hangs over Ayaan as a morality-tale, a warning of what she might have been. "I was determined to never let what happened to my mother happen to me," she says, looking away. "I think that has made me the way I am."

By the time she gave birth to her in a hospital on the outskirts of Mogadishu in 1967, Ayaan's mother was a broken woman. Like all Somalia women, she had been pressured all her life to suppress her personality, to sublimate everything to men and God - to become what Ayaan calls "a devoted, well-trained work-animal." In her youth, her mother had moments when she fought back, briefly and bravely. She insisted on leaving her family. They were desert nomads, living effectively in the Iron Age, with no writing, few metal objects, and a belief that Allah's angels and demons were constantly tinkering with reality. At fifteen, she walked out of their desert to the city of Aden. But when her father called her back to be married to a man she had never met, she submitted. Yet there was another flickering moment of freedom: exceptionally for that time and place, she insisted on a divorce, and got one.

But this was all gone when Ayaan was born. The woman striving for independence had crashed into the sheer weight of cultural expectation. She had been persuaded that "God is just and all-knowing and will reward you in the hereafter for being subservient." Her personality became deformed by it. Ayaan says, "She remained completely dependent. She nursed grievances; she was resentful; she was often violent, and she was always depressed." She would take it out on Ayaan, tying her arms behind her back and lashing her with wire for the slightest misdemeanour. When Ayaan first menstruated, her mother screamed at her: "Filthy prostitute! May you be barren! May you get cancer?" Ayaan tried to commit suicide not long after. But she says now that she knows "all the abuse wasn't really directed at me, but at the world, which had taken her rightful life away."

When her second husband left her, Ayaan's mother was too infantilised to react. "It never occurred to her to go out and create a new life for herself, even though she can't have been older than thirty-five or forty when my father left," Ayaan has written. She remembers waking up every night as a small girl to hear her mother wailing. One time she went into her mother's bedroom and placed a hand on her cheek. She screamed and beat her. After that, Ayaan would simply crouch at her door, listening to the wails, wishing she knew what to do.

Somali culture began to demand that Ayaan too become a submissive woman who scrubbed away her own personality and sexuality. When she was five years old, she was made "pure" by having her genitals hacked out with a knife. It was a simple process. Her grandmother and two of her friends pinned her down, pulled her legs apart, and knifed away her clitoris and labia. She remembers the sound even now - "like a butcher, snipping the fat off a piece of meat." The bleeding wound was sewn up, leaving a thick tissue of scarred flesh to form as her fleshy chastity belt. She could not walk for two weeks.

Ayaan soon realised that in a culture so patriarchal it could not tolerate the existence of an unmaimed vagina, "I could never become an adult. I would always be a minor, my decisions made for me. But I wanted to become an individual, with a life of my own." She heard whispers of a world where this was possible by reading novels. For her, even poring through Enid Blyton and Barbara Cartland seemed transgressive, because they depicted a world where boys and girls played together on the basis of equality, and where women chose their own husbands, rather than having them forced on them by their fathers. Imagine a world so patriarchal that Barbara Cartland seems like a gender revolutionary.

Yet on the road to this self-determining life, Ayaan turned first to its polar opposite: the very Islamic fundamentalism that now wants to kill her. Ayaan was taught from infancy to revere the Prophet Mohammed and the Koran, and she believed it all. She desperately wanted to please Mohammed, and his path seemed to her the only one. So once her family had moved to Kenya, a country where few people wore the headscarf, she chose to don one. She has written, "It had a thrill to it, a sensuous feeling. It made me feel powerful: underneath this screen lay a previously unsuspected, but potentially lethal, femininity. It sent out a message of superiority: I was the one true Muslim."

She began to go to a prayer group where the texts of Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al Banna - the intellectual inspirations for al Qaeda - were pored over. When the Ayatollah Khomeini declared that Salman Rushdie should be murdered for what a maniac says in one of his novels, Ayaan wanted him dead. "I supported it," she says now, "and the logic of my position is that I would have become a martyr myself, or supported the people [who did become martyrs]."

What would that girl, who took to the streets to call for Rushdie's death, say if she could see you now? Would she think you should be killed too? For the first time in our interview, Ayaan pauses. A long pause. "What would that girl of 1989 think of this girl?" she repeats. "I think... well... people change." Another pause. "She would at least approve of it. That's why I try to explain - there is a reason why so many Muslims are silent when, in the name of Islam, violence is committed. It's because we believe that jihad is the sixth obligation, those then who are brave enough to commit acts of jihad must deserve our commendation."

Then, one day, as she slid into jihadism, her absent father reappeared, and announced he had found her a good husband. Ayaan thought him stupid and ugly - but she had no choice. He was from the right clan, he had the right fundamentalist beliefs, and he wanted her. She knew what was expected: "A Muslim girl does not make her own decisions or seek control."

But she could not - would not - do it. She ran. She ran all the way to the Netherlands, on a plane, to claim asylum. She was terrified when she landed in the heartland of The Infidel. She expected to find depravity on every corner. But she was amazed. Here was a peaceful land that seemed like Paradise. "In the Netherlands I saw people we called infidels living an amazing life - men and women mixing, gay people being free, you could say whatever you wanted," she says. "Then I went back to the asylum seekers' centre and almost everyone was from a Muslim country begging for the charity of these infidels. And I thought, if we're so superior, why are we begging from them?"

She experimented in stepping out onto the streets without her hijab, expecting she would be harassed and raped by the sex-crazed infidel. Nobody looked twice. She began to test other democratic freedoms. She drank alcohol, she found a boyfriend - and she headed for the library to discover the principles that had created this place. She began to pore through the works of Enlightenment philosophy. "Sometimes it seemed as if every page I read challenged me as a Muslim. Drinking wine and wearing trousers was nothing compared to reading the history of ideas," she says. She says, "The Enlightenment cut European culture from its roots in old fixed ideas of magic, kingship, social hierarchy and the domination of priests, and regrafted it onto a great strong trunk that supported the equality of each individual, and his right to free opinions and self-rule." She found that all this was a profound challenge to the severe Islam she had been pickled in since childhood.

She began to study for a political science degree and was slowly rethinking her faith when, one bright morning in September 2001, the island of Manhattan became swathed with smoke. The chief hijacker, Mohammed Atta, was exactly the same age as Ayaan. She feels like she knows him and that if her life had taken a different turn - if she has stayed in Kenya, with the jihadis - "perhaps I could have done it." And she says something incredibly revealing: "I realised I could either go mad, join the Bin Ladenists, or step out of the religion."

This fanatical form of Islam was, she realised, around her in the Netherlands. A small group of Muslim men took to the streets to celebrate the massacre on the night of 9/11. The country's domestic violence shelters were disproportionately crammed with Muslim women fleeing male terror. Forced marriages and 'honour killings' continued at a startling rate in Dutch cities. But she found that many otherwise good people were reluctant to speak out against this abuse of women and gay people within immigrant communities. The Netherlands had a policy called "emancipation within your own circle", and Ayaan saw this as a betrayal. Multiculturalism, she believed, was "elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred towards women to the stature if respectable alternative ways of life. I wanted Muslim women to be aware of just how bad, and unacceptable, their suffering was. I wanted to help them develop the vocabulary of resistance."

She took the great English feminist Mary Wollstonecraft as her lode-star, and began to campaign for the state to log the rate of 'honour' killings, because nobody was even bothering to count. This led her to an offer by the centre-right Liberal Party to run to be a Member of Parliament. She took it, and got one of the highest personal votes in the country. This in turn led her into the path of Theo Van Gogh - and to his slaughter. Ayaan was placed under total 24/7 surveillance, and barely permitted to leave her house by troops of security guards.

At this point, two Ayaans were born, with clashing and contradictory views on Islam. Sitting here now, I can feel their presence; I can hear them alternate in her mind. I call the first Revolutionary Ayaan, and she says about 9/11: "This was not just Islam; this was the core of Islam. Mohammed Atta believed he was giving his life for Allah. This is beyond Osama Bin Laden, it is based in the basic roots of Islam." Without pausing, she continues: "You have to ask - is it a fact that the Prophet Mohammed conquered lands using the sword? Is it a fact that Muslims are commanded to commit jihad? Yes it is." She has no time for what she sees as the ignorant, woolly Islam-is-peace message of Western liberals, insisting: "I see no difference between Islam and Islamism. Islam is defined as submission to the will of Allah, as it is described in the Koran. Islamism is just Islam in its most pure form. Sayyid Qutb [the thinker who inspired al Qaeda] didn't invent anything; he just quoted the sayings of Mohammed."

Revolutionary Ayaan believes the religion cannot be reformed or changed, only defeated. The millions upon millions of Muslims who are not violent - "the wonderful decent law-abiding people" - simply do not really follow Islam. They ignore it, or they live uncomfortably with the explosive "cognitive dissonance" of simultaneously supporting human decency and the demands of Islam. She lists the awkward truths about the Prophet Mohammed. "All Muslims believe in following his example, but many of the things he did are crimes. When he was in his fifties he had sex with a nine-year old girl. By our standards he was a pervert. He ordered the killing of Jews and homosexuals and apostates, and the beating of women." That is why, she therefore concludes, "The War on Terror is a war on Islam" and "Islam is the new fascism."

But there then there is Reformist Ayaan. She says the opposite: internal reform within Islam is possible and necessary. She insists, "It's wrong to treat Muslims as if they will never find their John Stuart Mill. Christianity and Judaism show people can be very dogmatic and then open up. There is a minority [within Islam] like [reformists] Irshad Manji and Tawfiq Hamid who want to remain in the faith and reform it... Can you be a Muslim and respect the separation of church and state? I hope a large enough number of Muslims will agree you can, and they will find a way to keep the spiritual elements that comfort them and live in a secular society."

 Ayaan's life-story is strewn with Muslims who rejected Bin Ladenist fanaticism. Her father, for example, was revolted by the Wahabbism he witnessed in Saudi Arabia, and told her, "This is not Islam - this is Saudis perverting Islam." She hesitates when I ask her about this fracture-line in her thinking; I can almost touch the cognitive dissonance. Reformist Ayaan says: "Well, my father was trying to combine the commandments in the Koran with his conscience. He has reached a level of civilization because he's living in the 21st century, but he was also trying to follow a religion founded in the 7th century. So on the one hand he thinks you should accept that the content of the Koran is the true word of God, and on the other hand he is a decent person. He tried to move on by saying we should only convert non-Muslims by example, not by violence, and [by saying] that only the Prophet Mohammed can call for a jihad." But then Revolutionary Ayaan adds: "That's not what the Koran says. It says you can never change the faith."


Is there is a danger that the language of Revolutionary Ayaan is undercutting the very people Reformist Ayaan wants to encourage? Does she worry that by calling all Islam "fascism" she might encourage the hard right, who want to deny women like her the chance to even come to Europe as refugees? "I do," she says. "But the group of Europeans, white Europeans, who want to stop immigration all together, and who reject Muslims, today, is not that large. But they could become larger if European governments continue the policy of accommodating and appeasing fascist demands made by radical Muslims. They need to oppose fascist demands by Muslims, and the fascist demands by far right white groups. I think that if there is equal treatment on both sides that the traditional populations of Europe will say that's fair play."

As we discuss this, I realise there is something odd about this conversation. It is all so disconcertingly normal. She is speaking in a level voice, at a level volume. If you didn't speak English and you saw us talking, you could assume we were discussing bus timetables, or the weather. It's not that she seems passionless - not at all - but that her personality seems to be coiled up within her, and I am only seeing the carefully considered tip of it. When she describes the people who want to hack her body to pieces, it is in paragraphs that feel pre-packed. Perhaps it is all she can bear to show.

And so we continue, like this. She looks at me politely and says that Europe needs to be much more confident about standing up to Islamic fundamentalism. "When we come here as immigrants, we know it will be different to where we come from. It is a choice to come, and we can always choose to leave. If we do not want to adopt European values, we should expect to be criticised."

For example, the veil she used to wear is "a political statement, it's not just a religious statement," she says. "It says - I'm different from you and I reject what you stand for." She stresses she doesn't want to ban it, just to see it challenged: "I'm opposed to banning of political expression, but I'm very much a proponent of competing political expression. The message of liberals is so much better, so much stronger, that you don't have to resort to banning. You can wear whatever it is that you want, you can give out whatever message that you want to give out - but then you have to understand that if that message is rejected, then you can't call people Islamophobic and expect to be taken seriously. If you choose to wear a veil, people might ridicule and oppose you. That's their right too."

She speaks with such eloquent intensity because she is arguing against another, younger version of herself. The Ayaan of 2008 is attacking the Ayaan of 1988 - who is damning her right back. If there is a clash of civilisations, it is happening within her. It's hard to remember, as we sit here, that there are tens of thousands of people who want to prematurely bring this fizzing debate inside Ayaan's head to an end - with a bullet.

She fell in love with Holland because of its tradition of unabashed free speech, but it seems the country's politicians have judged that she took free speech too far for them. Earlier this year, the Dutch government began to re-investigate the lies in her original asylum claim. Ever since she entered public life she had been totally candid about this: she exaggerated the degree of state persecution she faced, because being abused by your family isn't enough to be granted refugee status. Now the government was twitchy about the rows she was stirring up - so they suddenly decided to strip her of her Dutch citizenship. She fled for Washington D.C. and a job with a conservative think tank.

Her alignment with the American right doesn't seem like an easy fit: she is a militant defender of atheism, feminism and gay rights - all forces they have demonised for decades. She is an illegal immigrant - their ultimate hate figure. But as our interview goes on, I realise she has depressingly begun to adopt some of their ideas. She wants to abolish the minimum wage. She no longer calls for the closing of all faith schools, but simply Muslim ones, because "they are the only ones that do not respect the division between secular and divine law." She has even begun to touch on the American hard right's preposterous predictions that Muslims are "out breeding" the continent's traditional populations and will impose shariah law "within decades." When I challenge her on this, she simply says "experts" say it is true.

Then, this month, the Dutch government went further and stripped away her security protection too, saying she should pay for it herself. The US government will not pick up the tab - the only mechanism they have for protecting private citizens full-time is the Witness Protection Programme, which obviously isn't appropriate. "Only eleven members out of the one hundred and fifty MPs voted to keep my security detail," she says. "So it's an overwhelming decision, and when I saw that I did feel betrayed. It's not only a betrayal of me. It's a betrayal of the idea of free expression. I think they believe that supposedly provoking Muslims will only make them more angry and hostile. The four large cities in Holland have now got very large Muslim populations, and that number is increasing - the estimate is that they're about 40%. With that kind of electoral power [they think] it's best not to provoke them." Even if it means sacrificing basic Dutch values? "Yes."

She is revolted by the people who claim it is she, Ayaan, who has "sold out" Muslims. "Tell me, is freedom only for white people?" she has written. "Is it self-love to adhere to my ancestors' traditions and mutilate my daughters? To agree to be humiliated and powerless? When I came to a new culture, where I saw for the first time that human relation could be different, would it have been self-love to see that as a foreign cult, which Muslims are forbidden to practice?"

So here she is, with the last sliver of protection she can afford standing between her and the people determined to murder her, still speaking, still fighting. Her family have said they will never speak to her again. She knows she can never return to the country where she was born. Is she frightened? She answers quickly, as if reciting a reassuring script. "I know that is what these terrorists want me to be," she says. "So I try not to be scared." Then she pauses, and looks down. "But sometimes. Yes."

She looks up again. "But I am lucky. There are so many crossroads where my life could have become so much worse. If I had stayed in Kenya with the [jihadist] prayer group... If I had entered into the marriage my father wanted... I could have lived like my mother..." She nods with confidence. "How many girls born in Digfeer Hospital in Mogadishu in November 1969 are even alive today? And how many have a real voice?"

Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent newspaper in London. Source:



Islam can fix world financial crisis, claims Al-Qaida No.2 Ayman al-Zawahri

November 29, 2008

Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader appeared in a new video posted Friday calling on Americans to embrace Islam to overcome the financial meltdown, which he said was a consequence of the Sept. 11 attacks and militant strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ayman al-Zawahri, whose 80-minute recording touched on a number of subjects, also lashed out at Afghanistan's government and said any U.S. gains in Iraq will be temporary. Zawahri discussed the roots of the U.S. economic crisis. He said it was a repercussion of the Sept. 11 attacks, and that the crisis would continue "as long as the foolish American policy of wading in Muslim blood continues."

Somali pirates seized control of a chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Friday and a NATO helicopter gunship, too late to prevent the hijacking, picked up three security guards who jumped into the sea. France and Germany have ships in the area as part of an international anti-piracy coalition. But in the 15 minutes it took to get to the site, the pirates had already boarded the Liberian-flagged ship and had taken the crew of 25 Indians and two Bangladeshis hostage.

Ethiopia announced Friday that it is pulling its forces from Somalia by year's end, leaving the ravaged capital vulnerable to the Islamic militants who have seized nearly all of the country. The decision ends the unpopular two-year presence of the key U.S. ally much as it began - with the militants in near-total control of a failed state with a worsening humanitarian crisis. Ethiopia has sent thousands of troops here since early 2007, when it launched a U.S.-backed operation.

Donatello's "David" was returned to its original splendour as restorers completed the first cleanup in a century of the bronze statue that is a symbol of the Renaissance. Restorers said Friday they used new cleaning techniques, including lasers, to remove encrusted dirt and grime from the 5.18-foot statue depicting the biblical hero who slew the giant Goliath. The $258,000 restoration lasted a year and a half. The statue, considered Donatello's best, is believed to have been made around 1440.



Our economy is strong – Saudi King Abdullah

Kuwait- King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, has affirmed that the economy of the Kingdom was excellent and that Saudi funds are safe in the global economic crisis.

The King emphasized that the Saudi economy “is solid and strong and that the five-year development plan will be completed as planned.” He said citizens will not suffer any losses.

“The visual and audio international media everywhere in the world have created a fearful atmosphere, as if what is happening in America can happen in Riyadh, Jeddah or any of the cities of the Kingdom. People facing this abundance of information do not know whom they should believe. We assure the people based on the facts that we know and are aware of,” the Monarch said in an interview to Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyassah. The interview was conducted by its editor-in-chief Ahmed Al-Jarallah and published on Saturday

The Monarch saw a disagreement and a conflict on the issue of dialogue between different religions. “As such, I did call for mutual relations through closer visions that bring people together as everyone wants peace, stability, security and safety.”

The following is the full text of the interview:

Q: Is the interfaith dialogue conference recently held at the United Nations gone as planned?

A: The world is boiling around us, but still the media is active in promoting and highlighting various negative (news) stories at the expense of other positive stories with regard to the convergence of civilizations. Although this is the core issue of the entire world nations which are supposed to have rational deliberations, fully taking into account its (dialogue’s) sensitivities and its role in illuminating the way people march ahead, it does not need usage of extensive media focus to put off the dialogue’s glitter. In decades ago, conflicts between the followers of religions used to fuel wars and hostilities between the nations. Saudi Arabia’s association with Islam is inseparable – of course – it is the cradle of Islam as well as the place of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madina. Thus, the issue of dialogue among followers of different religions had occupied my mind for long, I do see disagreement and conflict (on dialogue) in countries that we have common interests with, I had told them in that conference “Let us practice relations through shared points of views, all of us want peace, stability, security and safety of our peoples and nations.”

Moreover, we have much more in common to unite us and less to divide us, and I had told them let us leave what we disagree on to Allah and to the Day of Reckoning, let us be civilized in hearing each other’s point of views.

Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) spread Islam with beautiful preaching and logic. His message which calls for peace had convinced a great number of people to believe him and to believe in what he was sent for.

I am pleased for the positive responses to what I had put forward, resulting in the participation of the conference’s deliberations by all United Nations delegations. These reflected the interest for better relations between the world’s countries and peoples, away from religious wars – often – traded by those who mix them with political agendas based on profiting rather than reforming and acts of righteousness.

Q: What about the meeting of leaders of G20 pertaining to the world economic crises?

A: I have attended this meeting, and the meeting was free from the media row which frightened the world about the economic crises. The vision of these international leaderships included a target for correcting the economic tracks without tension. They speak with the conviction that nothing can be too difficult to solve, and they discussed the best solutions and what should be done was very clear to them. The figures of the crises were before them as well as the mechanism for their solution, and we have not yet reached the end of the world. I have listened to them and to the presented solutions, and we have inquired about what should be asked. I think that the matter will never remain irremediable because the problem is before them with all of its dimensions and solutions on the table, and I don’t think that this crisis is the end of the matter, but it is correction to a situation which was prevailing. Any way this is not the first crisis that faces the economies of the countries. There were earlier crises but we did not follow them up as we do today due to the development of the technologies of the media and the telecommunications means. The world under the technological development seems as if it is small cities which can be known with a glance of eye.

Q: It was said that the US has asked you to pay $120 billion as well as other big sums from other Gulf states so as to help it overcome its financial crisis, is that true?

A: That is not true, the Western countries and even the countries of the east which are affected by the financial crisis have great economies and they will never be in need of us. I have heard what was said, but I would like to make it clear that it is absolutely untrue. These countries have economic exchanges with figures which are not in billions but in trillions, and their economies are gigantic and they are not in need of the countries of the region. The figures of the gross domestic product of these countries are imaginary and they can never be compared with the GDP (gross domestic product) in our countries, and they are not in need of us.

Q: Do you think that the crisis will remain for a long time, and what is its impact on us?

A: Experts of capitals and leaders of big countries which have been affected by this crisis expect that the crisis will end within one-and-half year. What they are in need, as they say, is the restoration of confidence. I think that if the big world economies get acquainted with means of cooperation among them, then they will become capable of surpassing the crisis as they surpassed previous crises. It is true that the crises were not with the same severeness, but they were resolved.

As regards the second part of the question about the impact of the crisis on us, I would like to say yes , it has affected, and created tension and fear, because the capital is suffering, and the people facing turmoil either from the audio-visual media about the crisis and its dimensions, and its move from one country to another, have become worried, some look for a safe and secure place for their wealth, and some others want to grab opportunities, the people no longer believe in anything except what is in their hands, but this state will not continue for a long time.

Q: Does that mean that you were not harmed?

A: As a state, and money of the state, we have not been harmed, the surpluses of oil are safe and they were not faced by any complications at the world markets, and the private sector is capable of protecting its wealth and investments.

As regards the brothers in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) member states, I don’t know exactly to what extent they were affected by the crises, but I hope their financial surplus and sovereign investments will not be subject to any losses either little or big losses. I hope that, and would like to confirm that we were with the grace of Allah Almighty far away from the impact of this crisis, and here I mean our sovereign capital.

The thing from which we were harmed was the fear of the people under the assumption that what happens in America and the Western countries will have an impact on them in the same manner.

Q: Would you continue your five-year development plans in which you have allocated large amounts of money for implementation?

A: The five-year development plans will go ahead as designed, involving an announced expenditure of more than two hundred billion US dollars, other than what has been allocated for the next budgets to come with its infrastructure, construction and urban projects. Our country’s economy is solid and strong, our people need to be assured and aware of that, our people would not suffer any loss they are just victims of undue panic. I repeat, and repeat it again that our country is in stable conditions.

Q: But people are affected with what is happening in America, Europe and world markets?

A: Yes... people are affected with unjustified panic, and there is no cure, except giving specialists some time for its handling. I have told you from the very beginning of the interview that the modern international media everywhere in the world has created a scary atmosphere, as if what is happening in America can happen in Riyadh or Jeddah or any of the cities of the Kingdom. As such, people in the light of abundance of media focus on financial crises, do not know whom to believe.

We assure the citizens here, in accordance with the facts we know and feel, when we say that the Saudi sovereign funds are immune from the global economic crisis we are honest in our saying.

When we told the people that we are involved in development plans in accordance with the planned course, we say that with honesty, we have nothing to hide. Development budget figures are all before the people. All government bodies personnel are citizens of this country, these people are the ones who put these figures, supervise expenditure and investment.

Out of worries, there are some people who keep moving from one field of investment to another in search of so-called safe haven, they leave behind some panic among the people who find them moving from the stock market to real estate market and from the latter to financial market and so on and so forth. If they practice patience, they would find that their worries have no reason at all. Our economy is in shape, the global crisis may have created some of the slowdown caused by the panic that prevailed in the whole world because of this crisis, but – as I told you earlier – it is unwarranted panic that will vanish soon.

Q: Finally, I would like to ask is the Kingdom and its economy in good condition?

A: Thanks to Allah Almighty, they are in a good condition, quote me and tell the distant ones and the near ones, we are in a good condition, and the small state of alarm will end in a short time.

Q: What was the thought preoccupying the minds of the leaders of G20 when you were in meeting with them?

A: As I told you, the economies of their countries are in trillions, and their national incomes are very high and startling, but the tracks of these incomes and their expenditure take place in a well-studied and accurate way, some problems may appear, but they have no irremediable crisis, and the impact of this crisis may turn from fatal negatives to active positives, and the defects may be resolved for a better future.

I have noticed that the leaders of G20 during their meeting were preoccupied by the importance of work so as the crisis will not be entailed by a manpower unemployment, because that matter is a source of anxiety for them, but the other matters like the volume of expenditure, and economic slowness and the alarm that has inflicted the people, all that can be treated through rationalization of expenditure for some time. The issue of unemployment was a matter of concern for the leaders of G20, and they don’t lack awareness for the treatment of their crises, this was what I have noticed and which was clear during my meeting with them.

Q: Here oil prices are backing down. Does not that affect the size of financial revenues of oil countries?

A: Yes, this affects. We believe that the fair price of oil is 75 US dollars per barrel. Our budgets were estimated at the previous world prices of oil, and they were estimated at the last least price. We consider any increases as surpluses of assets and sovereign funds. Brother Ahmed, oil is an important material. It is the vein of the international industry which has no alternative for energy so far. It will continue to be the main and great source of budgets in the region’s countries which have one third of the world reserves. With the progress of time, there will be other resources that may be as important as oil revenues. The states in the region, including Saudi Arabia, have been bestowed upon by Almighty Allah with plenty of resources. We should thank Almighty Allah for these resources. I repeat that we are not concerned with the world economic calamities and they will not harm us. If they have any harm, it will be only the panic of the public and their wrong interaction with them. Perhaps there was a slowdown in the movement of trade due to those people who stop spending and engage in waiting afraid of what will come. But we do not blame anyone. As I told you the cure for panic over money is to wait for some time.

Q: Don’t you think that what happened may further consolidate the unification of interests among Gulf Cooperation Council countries?

A: Yes, we hope that what has been witnessed by the world economies will be an impetus for further link of interests among the region’s states. I hope that the economies of GCC states will not be affected with what happened in international markets. Otherwise – God forbid – I hope that this impact will not be painful. Anyway, this crisis may have stimulated the GCC states to further link their interests. This is what we want and seek to benefit from the lessons of what happened. The region’s countries are rich. In front of us, there are huge expenditures against substantial resources. With minimum cooperation along with good intentions, we can create an economic bloc having a strong fence against global economic storms.



Is Yoga incompatible with Islam?

IT was a simple one-page article in a local daily that drew Islamic Theology and Philosophy professor Dr Abdulfatah Haron Ibrahim's attention to the incompatibility of the philosophy of yoga to Islam.

The article discussed a new movie about the commercialisation of yoga in the West, and the irony of the ancient practice -- which was supposed to denounce all worldly matters -- being transformed by Western capitalism.

"Look, the article says it's a practice 'rooted in renunciation'," says Abdulfatah.

"A person is supposed to renounce everything. All material things, all worldly things."

This didn't seem quite as innocent as the yoga exercises he had done as a young man studying in the United States in the 1970s

"As a young man, of course I wanted to be healthy. So, in my free time and with a bit of curiosity, I found the books at a bookshop, read them and tried the postures.

"I know how to make my head touch my toes, and I can put my legs behind my head.

"I liked it very much, though some of the positions were quite complicated, and it's actually possible to injure yourself.

"Books on yoga should come with a warning telling a person not to try yoga without a qualified teacher," Abdulfatah reminisces.

Fast forward to nearly 40 years later, and Abdulfatah is a professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, with a double doctorate in Islamic Theology and Divinity, specialising in Tasawuf (Mysticism) and Tawhid (Oneness of Allah), among others.

A relentless scholar, he's published in journals and has several books to his name. Whatever caught his curiosity, he pursued.

And even though there can't be very many people interested in reading a 262-page study on Yoga, Tasawur & Islam, Abdulfatah wrote it anyway.

Although he is a member of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department's (Jakim) Aqidah (Doctrine of Faith) panel, Abdulfatah says he was not involved in promulgating the controversial fatwa against yoga.

"I prefer to write what I think about yoga, but not say haram or not haram.

"If people read it, maybe they will think something about it, or maybe they don't understand it at all. Maybe they would agree or disagree -- that's up to them; I cannot force them."

For Abdulfatah, yoga and Islam definitely do have compatibility problems, mainly because yoga's philosophy and Hinduism itself is so divergent from the teachings of Islam, particularly with issues of concept of God, life and death, and worldly responsibilities.

The most glaring difference between the philosophy of yoga and Islam, says Abdulfatah, is the fact that yoga is not practised for just health reasons. It's ultimate purpose is to become one with God.

"'Yoga' is Sanskrit for 'One-ness' or union with God. Yogis (practitioners of yoga) believe that it is through the proper practice of yoga that you can be united with God."

This union with God is incompatible with Islam, because in Islam, humans and God are separate and will always stay separate.

Hindus, however, believe in the concept of God is everything (in Arabic this philosophy is known as wahdat al-wudud).

Which means that when a human being achieves oneness with God, he self-annihilates and becomes subsumed with God?

"The Christians have a similar concept of becoming one with God, too, but this union takes place after death, while for the Hindus it is while you are still alive.

"Muslims never become one with Allah. We just get to meet Him in the afterlife."

Abdulfatah says in Hinduism, prior to the creation of the material world, man and God were one. But then, man and God are separated by the material world.

As more time passes, more material things get in between man and God, and they are separated farther and farther apart.

It is only by removing the material barrier between them that man can be reunited with God. The objective of man, therefore, is to fight to destroy the material world.

This is where yoga comes in.

The philosophy of yoga says that man is unhappy because he desires material things. When he cannot get these material things, this makes him unhappy.

Since material things are the cause of man's unhappiness, man is told to leave all material things, and then he will achieve happiness.

Through a progressive series of yoga practices that instil the discipline to suppress all activity of the body, mind and individual will, a yogi can attain the liberation of the Self, and unite with God.

All this, of course, contradict the teachings of Islam. In Islam, a person is not supposed to empty his mind of his desires.

And, although discipline is something to be desired, Islam does not reject material wealth. In fact, a Muslim is told to pursue it, for so long as he or she does not forget the afterlife.

Gathering wealth ensures that the basic needs like food, clothes and shelter will be met.

Also, in Islam, Earth is a place to do good deeds in preparation for the afterlife.

Abdulfatah says the method of the yogis to overcome unhappiness is unsuccessful, because it goes against the nature of human kind (to have desires).

"I studied yoga based on my experience in the West. Western people are very materialistic. If you don't have a spiritual aspect to life, and only a material aspect, you will be unhappy.

"So, in Islam, there is a spiritual life, and material life. This is how to answer the modern problem: you must not forget your relationship to man, society, and to God."

Abdulfatah said yoga also contradicted the teachings of Islam because in the Hindu tradition it was aristocratic and discriminatory.

This is because Asana yoga, the exercise form of yoga that most people are familiar with, can only be practised by the top two castes in Hinduism, the Brahmins (priestly and scholarly class) and the Kshatriyas (warrior class).

In Islam, he said, everyone, male or female, had to perform the salat (prayer).

"In Islam, all men and women are equal in God's eyes. Whoever is pious and does good, God will love them. But if they do bad, God will warn them not to do it."

However, even though Muslims might practise yoga without knowing any of these things about Hinduism, Abdulfatah's study points out that Asana yoga, which is about the postures for health and calmness has other more tangible elements of Hindu worship.

The Lotus Position, for instance, is tied to the legend of the creation of Brahma, while the Garudasana symbolises the mythical bird that Vishnu rode to the skies.

In practising Asana yoga, a person would also have to do some breathing exercises, and this, too, Abdulfatah says, is something that does not exist in Islam.

"The Malay practice of sikir nafas, breathing in and uttering 'Hu' and exhaling saying 'Allah' is actually a deviant practise, because 'Hu' doesn't mean anything, and it is certainly not one of the names of Allah."

When practised in asana yoga, yogis have to say "Om", which is a mantra of the most powerful word and contains all the names of God in Hinduism, as well as other hidden elements.

"Aum" is also not innocent of meaning. "A" stands for the Creation within Brahma, the God of Creation. "U" symbolises Vishnu, the Preserver of the Universe, while "M" symbolises Shiva, the God of Destruction. So, "Aum' symbolises the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity.

Nevertheless, Abdulfatah's study does not deny that some methods of breathing without using the name of any religion is "a well-known factor among health experts to help clear the mind".

Perhaps the most divisive thing about yoga beyond its physical aspects is the sheer divergence in the doctrine of God between Islam and Hinduism.

As mentioned earlier, Hinduism has the concept of Trimurti. Although Hindus believe in one God, there are three manifestations of this God, which Abdulfatah says is unacceptable to Muslims.

Hinduism also practises reincarnation, an endless cycle of life and death. It has a world which has no end. It is only when an individual is extremely pious that he will become one with Brahma. But even so, it is only the individual, and not the whole of humanity.

Islam, on the other hand, has a beginning, a middle, and an end, says Abdulfatah.

It is because of these main reasons, among many more, says Abdulfatah, that yoga is not compatible with Islam, and there was a risk of a Muslim practitioner getting exposed to the Hindu yoga philosophy, particularly those whose faith is not strong, "especially if a person is not very well versed in the Islamic aqidah (doctrine of faith)".

"There are a lot of other exercises that are not based on religious practice that can be used as an alternative instead, like Taichi and Wai Tan Gong," said Abdulfatah.

The main culprit for this entire problem is industrialisation, which has robbed humans of the normal daily physical activities like walking or cycling, for instance.

And so, humans, lacking in exercise, turn to yoga as a solution.

Still, to his credit, Abdulfatah's study did not label yoga as haram for Muslims.

As he said, read it for yourself and decide.



Muslims split on mosque proposal

Barney Zwartz, December 1, 2008

Australian Muslims are deeply divided over a plan by the nation's most senior cleric to allow men and women to pray in the same hall, which conservative Sydney Muslims have vowed to fight.

A quartet of leaders has met several times to oppose the plan by the Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Fehmi Naji el-Imam, to return to the worship endorsed by the Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago, with men and women in the same prayer space.

"There's been a huge backlash, even though he's partially right," said Keysar Trad, president of the Sydney-based Islamic Friendship Association, one of the quartets.

Sheikh Fehmi — who announced his bold plan 10 days ago in response to complaints by women at a Melbourne conference — was unrepentant yesterday, saying the Sydney leaders should not start trouble based on a misunderstanding.

His announcement followed a report by the Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria claiming some imams had condoned domestic violence, polygamy, rape within marriage and exploitation of women.

Yesterday, Sheikh Fehmi said: "Some people have misunderstood and talked as if I said women should be side by side with men, but that wasn't the practice of the Prophet. Women came to pray, but formed their own line," he said.

"No imams should stop women coming into the mosque to pray, but the practice should be exactly as it was in the Prophet's time, no more, no less.

"The women are happy about what I suggested. If so, people should not be starting trouble without knowing what has been said and what is going to be done. Anyone who wants to know what we intend can ask us, and we will tell them about it."

In an online article on Friday, Mr Trad accused the Mufti of a "knee-jerk capitulation".

He told The Age women usually had less space than men in mosques but this was because men, if they lived within two kilometres of a mosque, had to attend five times a day to pray. There was no such requirement for women.

Mr Trad said he had been meeting with Australian National Imams' Council chairman Abdul Moez Alnafti and two senior scholars — but not Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali who is overseas — to respond to issues arising at the conference at the National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies.

He said Sydney Muslims were incensed about the Islamic Women's Council report, which sensationalised isolated incidents. They were also upset at Sheikh Fehmi's response to the report.

"His first response, where he said the women must be writing about stories they have heard as though they are fact, was one most people could identify with, but his second was a complete turn around."

(The next day Sheikh Fehmi acknowledged that some imams had made mistakes and that the women should be heard.)

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, said he supported Sheikh Fehmi's call to allow women in the same prayer hall, though still separate. He said the main problem for the growing Muslim population was the difficulty in building new mosques because of community opposition. In overcrowded mosques women's accommodation was sometimes substandard.

The Australian National Imams Council did not return calls.


Mufti wants men and women to pray in the same space.

Opponents say there's been a "huge backlash".

Mufti claims he's been misunderstood.



Muslims not a minorityin India, Parsis and Jews are: RSS chief K.C. Sudarshan

Sun, Nov 30

Patna, Nov 30 (IANS) The Muslim community in India is not a minority and Parsis and Jews are the 'real minority', Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief K.C. Sudarshan has said.

'Muslims are not a minority. They are being treated as a minority. It is part of an appeasement policy,' Sudarshan said Saturday at Muzaffarpur, about 70 km from here.

He said that despite their small numbers, Parsis and Jews neither demanded reservation nor special treatment.

'Muslims should not be described as a minority. It is wrong to say so,' Sudarshan told a meeting of RSS activists.

He claimed that 99.99 percent of Muslims and even Christians shared the 'same blood and same ancestors' with the Hindus. 'They have only changed the way of worship.'

Sudarshan, who is on a week-long visiting to Bihar, said that a community should be treated as a minority if it migrates from another country, not when 'your ancestors belonged to this country'.

'India was home to the Muslims and their roots were in this country. How can they become a minority?' he asked.

With some 140 million Muslims, India is home to the world's third largest Islamic population after Indonesia and Pakistean. Source:


8 Muslims arrested for damaging Dhaka sculpture


DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Police in Bangladesh's capital arrested eight members of a hard-line Islamic group for damaging a large outdoor sculpture of a group of white storks, an official said Sunday.

Alam Badshah, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police official, said the men were arrested late Saturday during the attack in Dhaka's Motijheel commercial district. All eight are members of the little-known Muslim group Ulama Anjumane Al Baiyeniat, he said.

Members of the group, which considers sculptures to be a form of idol worship, clashed with security officials who stopped their attack on the statue, he said.

The men, armed with shovels and hammers, damaged the stone base of the 41-foot (12.5-meter) sculpture of six storks after they were unable to pull it down with ropes, Badshah said.

About 100 members of the group gathered nearby and distributed leaflets encouraging action against anti-Islamic activities, he said.

The melee left several people, including some group members, injured. Two of the detainees were being treated at a hospital, Badshah said.

He said the eight faced charges of creating chaos and attacking security officials.

It was unclear why they chose now to attack the statue, which has stood at a road intersection since 1989.

Mrinal Haque, the sculptor, said the statue had nothing to do with Islam.

"It's a shame, it's an attack on our secular culture ... this is a very innocent artwork," he told The Associated Press by phone. "It's like my child."

Some hard-line Islamic groups in Muslim-majority Bangladesh publicly condemn such sculptures. In October, another group damaged a large statue of mystic poet Lalon Shah outside Dhaka's Zia International Airport.



Muslim convert turns to politics in Italy

Dec 01, 2008

Rome (AP) — An Egyptian-born writer who renounced Islam and was baptized by Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that he has formed a political party that would enter candidates in next year's EU elections.

Magdi Cristiano Allam said his "Protagonists for Christian Europe" party would work to defend Europe's Christian values, which he sees threatened by secularism and moral relativism. He said his new party would be open to people of all faiths and would be close to the conservative European People's Party.

Allam built his career in Italy as commentator and book author attacking Islamic extremism and supporting Israel.

In March, Allam angered some in the Muslim world with a high-profile conversion during an Easter vigil service led by the pope in St. Peter's Basilica.

Allam, who took the name Cristiano upon converting, has credited Benedict with being instrumental in his decision to become a Catholic and has said the pope had baptized him to support freedom of religion.

The 56-year-old Allam has lived most of his adult life in Italy, becoming a citizen in 1986. In recent years he was given a police escort after receiving death threats from radical Islamic groups.

While working to encourage tolerance between cultures he has also grown increasingly critical of his former faith.

He said in leading daily Corriere della Sera, where he has worked as deputy editor, that the "root of evil is inherent in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual."



Group seeks tough child-porn laws

The viewing and procurement of child pornography, including online images of the sexual abuse of children, should be made illegal in all nations, according to a declaration issued at an international congress in Rio de Janeiro.

The declaration, worked out at the third World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, states the viewing and obtaining of such material should be criminalized — in addition to its production, distribution and possession. It also says explicit comic strips and cartoons should be regulated.

About 3,000 representatives of 140 national governments, international bodies and nongovernmental organizations attended the four-day congress that ended Friday.

Gaza City

Pilgrims prevented from leaving Gaza

Hamas police set up checkpoints across Gaza on Saturday to prevent pilgrims from leaving for a holy Muslim ritual in Saudi Arabia, beating some who tried to dodge barriers, witnesses said.

The Islamic militants who rule Gaza were upset that the pilgrims coordinated their journey with Hamas' rival, the Palestinian Authority. The authority, based in the West Bank, is run by Hamas' bitter rival, the Fatah movement. The crackdown on the pilgrims highlights the depth of the bitterness between the two groups.

Egypt criticized Hamas' actions as unbecoming of an Islamic movement.

Hobart, Australia

Whales stranded on rocky coast

Officials rushed today to reach about 80 whales stranded on a remote coast in southern Australia.

The group was spotted from the air Saturday on a rocky coastline at Sandy Cape in the northwest of Tasmania State, Rosemary Gales of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service said.

Many of the 80 long-finned pilot whales counted appeared to be dead, she said.

Two crews of rescuers were on their way to the region, but were being slowed by the rugged terrain, which also limited the amount of equipment they could carry, Gales said.

Camaguey, Cuba

Raul Castro attends friar's beatification

Thousands of Roman Catholic faithful and even President Raul Castro gathered Saturday for the beatification of a monk known as the "father of the poor" — the first ceremony of its kind on Cuban soil.

The act brings Friar José Olallo Valdes, a member of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, to within one step of sainthood. Olallo, who died in 1889 at age 69, earning his nickname by caring for the needy and chronically ill.

Seattle Times news services