بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ
الَّذِينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسَالاَتِ اللهِ وَيَخْشَوْنَهُ وَلاَ يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلاَّ اللهَ وَكَفَى بِاللهِ حَسِيبًا

Sabtu, Januari 29, 2011

Iran asks Egypt to meet public demands

Source: PressTV

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has called on political leaders in Egypt to follow the “rightful demands” of their people.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast

“Iran expects Egyptian officials to listen to the voice of their Muslim people, respond to their rightful demands and refrain from exerting violence by security forces and police against an Islamic wave of awareness that has spread through the country in form of a popular movement,” Mehmanparast said Saturday.

He further pointed out that Tehran attaches great importance to the fulfillment of public demands in Egypt and added, “Iran regards demonstrations by the Muslim people of this country as a justice-seeking movement in line with their national-religious demands.”

Mehmanparast went on to say that the Islamic Republic of Iran is “closely following up and monitoring developments in Egypt.”

Clashes have been continuing between government forces and opposition protesters in Egypt for the fifth day.

Dozens of people have been killed in street battles since the demonstrations started on Tuesday. Reports say over 20 people have been killed in the city of Alexandria alone. Some one thousand others have been wounded.

The protesters want Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to end his 30-year rule.

The protesters say they have been emboldened by the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, which saw the overthrow of President Zein El Adbdin Ben Ali.

Mubarak on Friday night ordered the cabinet to step down and pledged to work for more democracy and press ahead with social, economic and political reforms.

He expressed regret over the loss of innocent lives during the anti-government demonstrations but defended the role of government forces in the violent crackdown on protesters.


Source: PressTV

Baca lagi...

Clashes in Alexandria kill 23 Egyptians

Source: PressTV

At least 23 Egyptian protesters have been killed during clashes with police in the port city of Alexandria as the explosion of anger at President Hosni Mubarak continues to rock the country.

On Saturday, medical sources stated that 23 protesters have lost their lives in streets fighting with police forces in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, while 13 people were killed and 75 others injured in the flash point city of Suez, along the strategic Suez Canal, where protesters torched a fire station and looted weapons that they then turned on police earlier on Thursday.

According to medical sources, at least 1,030 protesters have so far been injured as mass protests remain unabated across the country for a fourth consecutive day.

The fall-out comes after a curfew from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. was imposed on Friday in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria.

Inspired by the recent popular revolution in Tunisia, which resulted in the historic overthrow of the country's President Zine El Abidin Ben Ali, Egyptians have staged similar anti-government protests since Tuesday, calling on Mubarak to relinquish power after three decades in office.

At least five people were killed in Cairo and two in Mansura, north of the capital on Friday, with many fatalities caused by rubber-coated bullets, medics and witnesses said.

On Friday, Mubarak sacked his cabinet and called for national dialogue in an attempt to staunch the flow of public outcry over poverty, high unemployment rates and rampant corruption.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for an end to violence in Egypt and urged the government to respect freedom of speech.


Source: PressTV

Baca lagi...

Paris 'Muslim Batman' angers rightwing US bloggers

Source: Middle East Online
By Rory Mulholland - PARIS

Rightwing bloggers in US furious that DC Comics chose to make their new superhero a Muslim.

A fictional character threatening the fictional world of rightwing bloggers.

Batman has battled many enemies but now has to face the anger of rightwing US bloggers furious that the comic book caped crusader has recruited a Muslim to run his crime-fighting franchise in Paris.

"The character’s name is Bilal Asselah and he is an Algerian Sunni Muslim and an immigrant that is physically fit and adept at the gymnastic sport parkour," wrote Warner Todd Huston on his site Publius Forum.

"Apparently Batman couldn't find any actual Frenchman to be the 'French saviour'," wrote the rightwinger, apparently discounting the millions of French citizens of North African descent from his definition of "actual" French.

In the December issues of DC Comics Detective Comics Annual and Batman Annual, the caped crusader has set up Batman Incorporated and wants to install a superhero in cities around the world to fight crime.

The hero he picks in France is called Nightrunner, the alter ego of a 22-year-old from Clichy-sous-Bois, a tough Paris suburb where urban unrest sparked riots in immigrant districts across France in 2005.

Bilal Asselah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, was caught up in that unrest and at one point he and his friend got beaten up by police who mistook them for rioters.

Bilal's friend reacted by later burning down a police station and ended up being killed by police.

But Bilal, thanks largely to the influence of his pious Muslim mother, rejects hate and fear.

He concentrates on learning parkour, the form of acrobatics where practitioners jump from buildings and leap over walls and street furniture, as spectacularly seen at the start of the 2006 James Bond film "Casino Royale."

When riots again threaten to engulf his neighbourhood, Bilal puts on a mask and, using his parkour skills, becomes Nightrunner and sets out to set things right again.

Nightrunner's integrity, athletic prowess, and triumph over personal adversity made him Bruce Wayne's obvious choice to represent Batman in Paris.

But rightwing bloggers in the United States, who are also upset over plans for a black actor to play the Norse God Thor in an upcoming blockbuster movie, are incensed that DC Comics chose to make their new superhero a Muslim.

They see it as pandering to political correctness.

"Unfortunately, readers of Batman will not be helped to understand what troubles are really besetting France," wrote Huston on Publius Forum.

"In this age when Muslim youths are terrorizing the entire country, heck in this age of international Muslim terrorism assaulting the whole world, Batman’s readers will be confused by what is really going on in the world.

"Through it all DC makes a Muslim in France a hero when French Muslims are at the center of some of the worst violence in the country’s recent memory," he wrote.

The Angry White Dude blog, which described Islam as the "religion of murder," mocked that "Nightrunner the Muslim sidekick will have strange new powers to bury women to their waists and bash their heads in with large rocks."

US comic book creator Bosch Fawstin, who wrote on his blog that "DC Comics has submitted to Islam," is coming up with his own antidote.

"If you’re as sick and tired of this IslamiCrap as I am, be on the lookout for my upcoming graphic novel, The Infidel, which features Pigman, an ex-Muslim superhero who is the jihadist’s worst nightmare," he blogged.

DC comics did not respond to an AFP request for an interview with David Hine, the writer of the album featuring Nightrunner, and declined to comment on the controversy.

But the British-born author told a US website that he had tried to "come up with the kind of hero I would want to see in a comic book if I were French."

"The urban unrest and problems of the ethnic minorities under (President Nicolas) Sarkozy’s government dominate the news from France and it became inevitable that the hero should come from a French Algerian background," he told the Death and Taxes site.

The mini-storm on the English-language blogosphere -- where left-leaning or pro-Islam sites are attacking the rightwingers for their hostility to a Muslim superhero -- has so far only sparked a tiny number of reactions on French-language websites.

The albums went on sale here last month but the small numbers stocked were quickly sold out, book stores said.

Source: Middle East Online

Baca lagi...

Poll results challenge Huntington’s 'clash of civilisations' theory

Source: Middle East Online
By Sara Reef – NEW YORK

Vast majority of polled individuals in Muslim and Western countries believe greater interaction would benefit rather than threat.

Half of Muslims believe the West does not respect Muslim societies.

The vast majority of individuals in both Muslim-majority and Western countries surveyed in a recent poll believe greater interaction between them would be a benefit rather than a threat. In fact, an average of 59 per cent of people across 48 countries says it’s advantageous.

These findings are part of a new report, “Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations: Assessing the ‘New Beginning’”, released this past November by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, which surveyed over 100,000 respondents from 2006 to 2010 and across 55 countries. This report challenges political scientist Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilisations” theory by showing that the majority of people in countries surveyed perceive Muslim-Western interaction as a benefit, rather than a threat.

The report reveals that half of Muslims believe the West does not respect Muslim societies and to do so, it should abstain from desecrating religious symbols. They also want to see more Muslim characters featured accurately in movies, which is surprising because it demonstrates the power of film in contributing toward increasing respect between Muslim societies and Americans.

Perhaps most importantly, researchers say religion and politics play a key role in determining individuals’ desire to engage.

Forty per cent of Muslims surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region believe political differences are the primary cause of Muslim-Western tensions, and are more likely to believe violent conflicts can be avoided. As for people in the United States and Canada, 35 per cent think political differences are the cause of such tensions while 36 percent think the cause is religious; 40 per cent of Muslims surveyed in the MENA region believe religion is the primary cause of these tensions.

Those not ready for increased interaction between the Muslim world and the West are more likely to see these tensions grounded in religious differences. Individuals who blame religion for the Muslim-Western divide are much less optimistic about avoiding conflict. According to Gallup, those individuals who blame religion as a source of tension are not ready for increased interaction, and are likely to remain so indefinitely.

The Gallup poll also shows a strong correlation between education and one’s readiness to view increased Muslim-Western interaction as a benefit. The majority of individuals with a high school or more advanced degree are likely to view increased interaction as a benefit, regardless of whether they are from a Muslim society or a Western country.

Moving forward, Gallup recommends for Muslim and Western society leaders to emphasise resolving political issues rather than religious conflicts. This should be done by creating policies that are fair to both Muslim-majority and Western countries, and take culturally appropriate differences into account. An example of this might be easing visa restrictions for students or tourists from the Muslim world that are interested in visiting the United States. This gesture would increase the number of Muslim tourists in the country, thereby enhancing cultural exchanges and promoting improved understanding.

The last section of the report focuses on perceptions of people in three acute conflict areas: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel and the Palestinian territories. People were asked their opinions on daily realities as well as increased Muslim-Western interactions. Gallup included in the report policy recommendations to address local needs in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, no recommendations for doing the same in Israel or the Palestinian Territories were offered. Since this conflict continues to be one of the largest tensions between Muslim societies and the United States, readers of the report would have benefited from recommendations on this issue. But it is precisely because this is such a contentious issue that Gallup may have chosen to avoid making any recommendations.

Following US President Barak Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo there has been an increase in Muslim-Western exchanges, such as “programs promoting entrepreneurship, student and scholarly exchanges, partnerships to eradicate disease, as well as programs to increase women’s education in majority Muslim societies.” However, sceptics believe real change has yet to occur. In early 2010, approval of US leadership decreased in several Arab countries, perhaps because Obama didn’t meet expectations of change in the Arab world.

It also makes one thing clear: although we have made some progress in improving Muslim-Western relations, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Sara Reef is Director of Cross Cultural Initiatives at Intersections International. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Middle East Online

Baca lagi...

Muslims to make up quarter of global population

Source: Middle East Online

Muslim population growth outpaces non-Muslims' with Pakistan to overtake Indonesia as most populous.

The world's Muslim population will grow twice as fast as the non-Muslim population in the next 20 years.

WASHINGTON - The world's Muslim population will grow twice as fast as the non-Muslim population in the next 20 years, when Muslims are expected to make up more than a quarter of the global population, a study published Thursday predicts.

Using fertility, mortality and migration rates, researchers at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life project a 1.5-percent annual population growth rate for the world's Muslims over the next two decades, and just 0.7 percent growth each year for non-Muslims.

The study, called "The Future of the Global Muslim Population," projects that in 2030 Muslims will make up 26.4 percent of the world’s population, which is expected to total around 8.3 billion people by then.

That marks a three-percentage-point rise from the 23.4-percent share held by Muslims of the globe's estimated 6.9 billion people today, the study says.

More than six in 10 followers of Islam will live in the Asia-Pacific region in 2030, and nuclear Pakistan, which has seen a rise in radical Islam in recent months, will overtake Indonesia as the world's most populous Muslim nation.

In Africa, the Muslim population of the sub-Saharan country of Nigeria will be greater than that of Egypt in 20 years, the study projects.

And in Europe, Pew predicts the Muslim population will grow by nearly a third in 20 years, from 44.1 million people, or six percent of the region's inhabitants in 2010, to 58.2 million or eight percent of the projected total population by 2030.

Some European Union (EU) countries will see double-digit percentages of Muslims in their population by 2030: Belgium's Muslim population is projected to rise from six percent to 10.2 percent over the next 20 years, while France's is expected to hit 10.3 percent in 2030, up from 7.5 percent today.

In Sweden, Pew predicts Muslims will comprise nearly 10 percent of the population compared to less than five percent today.

Britain's Muslim population is predicted to rise from 4.6 percent to 8.2 percent by 2030, and 9.3 percent of the population of Austria is forecast to be Muslim by then, compared to less than six percent of residents of the alpine country now.

Russia, which is not a member of the EU, will continue to have the largest Muslim population in absolute terms in Europe in 2030, with 18.6 million Muslims or 14.4 percent of the total population of the vast country.

The United States, meanwhile, is projected to have a larger absolute number of Muslims by 2030 than any European countries other than Russia and France, but proportionally, Muslims will make up a much smaller percentage of the population of the United States than they do in Europe.

The Muslim share of the US population is projected to grow from its current level of less than one percent to 1.7 percent by 2030, making Muslims "roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the United States," the study says.

Source: Middle East Online

Baca lagi...

Khamis, Januari 06, 2011

Kenyataan YB Dato' Ibrahim Ali Di Dalam Dewan Rakyat

(Dipetik dari: Penyata Rasmi Parlimen, Jilid II, Bil 67, 18 Januari 1993)

Muka 1/3. Sila klik imej untuk paparan yang lebih besar.

Muka 2/3. Sila klik imej untuk paparan yang lebih besar.

Muka 3/3. Sila klik imej untuk paparan yang lebih besar.

Baca lagi...

Selasa, Januari 04, 2011

The Islamification of Britain: record numbers embrace Muslim faith

Source: The Independent UK
The number of Britons converting to Islam has doubled in 10 years. Why? Jerome Taylor and Sarah Morrison investigate

Hana Tajima, 23, fashion designer: "I became friends with a few Muslims in college, and was slightly affronted and curious at their lack of wanting to go out to clubs or socialise." (Photo: Susannah Ireland)

The number of Britons choosing to become Muslims has nearly doubled in the past decade, according to one of the most comprehensive attempts to estimate how many people have embraced Islam.

Following the global spread of violent Islamism, British Muslims have faced more scrutiny, criticism and analysis than any other religious community. Yet, despite the often negative portrayal of Islam, thousands of Britons are adopting the religion every year.

Estimating the number of converts living in Britain has always been difficult because census data does not differentiate between whether a religious person has adopted a new faith or was born into it. Previous estimates have placed the number of Muslim converts in the UK at between 14,000 and 25,000.

But a new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests the real figure could be as high as 100,000, with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year.

By using data from the Scottish 2001 census – the only survey to ask respondents what their religion was at birth as well as at the time of the survey – researchers broke down what proportion of Muslim converts there were by ethnicity and then extrapolated the figures for Britain as a whole.

In all they estimated that there were 60,699 converts living in Britain in 2001. With no new census planned until next year, researchers polled mosques in London to try to calculate how many conversions take place a year. The results gave a figure of 1,400 conversions in the capital in the past 12 months which, when extrapolated nationwide, would mean approximately 5,200 people adopting Islam every year. The figures are comparable with studies in Germany and France which found that there were around 4,000 conversions a year.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, admitted that coming up with a reliable estimate of the number of converts to Islam was notoriously difficult. "This report is the best intellectual 'guestimate' using census numbers, local authority data and polling from mosques," he said. "Either way few people doubt that the number adopting Islam in the UK has risen dramatically in the past 10 years."

Asked why people were converting in such large numbers he replied: "I think there is definitely a relationship between conversions being on the increase and the prominence of Islam in the public domain. People are interested in finding out what Islam is all about and when they do that they go in different directions. Most shrug their shoulders and return to their lives but some will inevitably end up liking what they discover and will convert."

Batool al-Toma, an Irish born convert to Islam of 25 years who works at the Islamic Foundation and runs the New Muslims Project, one of the earliest groups set up specifically to help converts, said she believed the new figures were "a little on the high side".

"My guess would be the real figure is somewhere in between previous estimates, which were too low, and this latest one," she said. "I definitely think there has been a noticeable increase in the number of converts in recent years. The media often tries to pinpoint specifics but the reasons are as varied as the converts themselves."

Inayat Bunglawala, founder of Muslims4UK, which promotes active Muslim engagement in British society, said the figures were "not implausible".

"It would mean that around one in 600 Britons is a convert to the faith," he said. "Islam is a missionary religion and many Muslim organisations and particularly university students' Islamic societies have active outreach programmes designed to remove popular misconceptions about the faith."

The report by Faith Matters also studied the way converts were portrayed by the media and found that while 32 per cent of articles on Islam published since 2001 were linked to terrorism or extremism, the figure jumped to 62 per cent with converts.

Earlier this month, for example, it was reported that two converts to Islam who used the noms de guerre Abu Bakr and Mansoor Ahmed were killed in a CIA drone strike in an area of Pakistan with a strong al-Qa'ida presence.

"Converts who become extremists or terrorists are, of course, a legitimate story," said Mr Mughal. "But my worry is that the saturation of such stories risks equating all Muslim converts with being some sort of problem when the vast majority are not". Catherine Heseltine, a 31-year-old convert to Islam, made history earlier this year when she became the first female convert to be elected the head of a British Muslim organisation – the Muslim Public Affairs Committee. "Among certain sections of society, there is a deep mistrust of converts," she said. "There's a feeling that the one thing worse than a Muslim is a convert because they're perceived as going over the other side. Overall, though, I think conversions arouse more curiosity than hostility."

How to become a Muslim

Islam is one of the easiest religions to convert to. Technically, all a person needs to do is recite the Shahada, the formal declaration of faith, which states: "There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is his Prophet." A single honest recitation is all that is needed to become a Muslim, but most converts choose to do so in front of at least two witnesses, one being an imam.

Converts to Islam

Hana Tajima, 23, fashion designer
Hana Tajima converted to Islam when she was 17. Frustrated by the lack of variety in Islamic clothing for converts she founded Maysaa, a fashion house that designs western-inspired clothing that conforms to hijab.

"It's true that I never decided to convert to Islam, nor was there a defining moment where I realised I wanted to be Muslim. My family aren't particularly religious. I was interested in religion, but very disinterested in how it related to my life. I grew up in rural Devon where my Japanese father was the ethnic diversity of the village. It wasn't until I studied at college that I met people who weren't of the exact same background, into Jeff Buckley, underground hip-hop, drinking, and getting high. I met and became friends with a few Muslims in college, and was slightly affronted and curious at their lack of wanting to go out to clubs or socialise in that sense. I think it was just the shock of it, like, how can you not want to go out, in this day and age.

"It was at about that time that I started to study philosophy, and without sounding too much like I dyed my hair black and wore my fringe in front of my face, I began to get confused about my life. I was pretty popular, had good friends, boyfriends, I had everything I was supposed to have, but still I felt like 'is that it?' So these things all happened simultaneously, I read more about religion, learned more about friends of other backgrounds, had a quarter life crisis. There were things that drew me to Islam in particular, it wasn't like I was reaching for whatever was there. The fact that the Qur'an is the same now as it ever was means there's always a reference point. The issues of women's rights were shockingly contemporary. The more I read, the more I found myself agreeing with the ideas behind it and I could see why Islam coloured the lives of my Muslim friends. It made sense, really, I didn't and still don't want to be Muslim, but there came a point where I couldn't say that I wasn't Muslim.

"Telling my family was the easy part. I knew they'd be happy as long as I was happy, and they could see that it was an incredibly positive thing. My friends went one of two ways, met with a lack of any reaction and lost to the social scene, or interested and supportive. More the former, less the latter."

Denise Horsley, 26, dance teacher
Denise Horsley lives in North London. She converted to Islam last year and is planning to marry her Muslim boyfriend next year.

Denise Horsley, 26, dance teacher: "I was introduced to Islam by my boyfriend." (Photo: Susannah Ireland)

"I was introduced to Islam by my boyfriend Naushad. A lot of people ask whether I converted because of him but actually he had nothing to do with it. I was interested in his faith but I went on my own journey to discover more about religion.

"I bought loads of books on all the different religions but I kept coming back to Islam - there was something about it that just made sense, it seemed to answer all the questions I had.

"I would spend hours in the library at Regents Park Mosque reading up on everything from women's rights to food. Before I went to prayers for the first time I remember sitting in my car frantically looking up how to pray on my Blackberry. I was so sure people would know straight away that I wasn't a Muslim but if they did no-one seemed to care.

"During Ramadan I'd sit and listen to the Qur'anic recitations and would be filled with such happiness and warmth. One day I decided there and then to take my shahada. I walked down to the reception and said I was ready to convert, it was as simple as that.

"My friends and family were rather shocked, I think they expected there would be some sort of huge baptism ceremony but they were very supportive of my decision. I think they were just pleased to see me happy and caring about something so passionately.

"I grew up Christian and went to a Catholic school. Islam to me seemed to be a natural extension of Christianity. The Qur'an is filled with information about Jesus, Mary, the angels and the Torah. It's part of a natural transition.

"I do now wear a headscarf but it wasn't something I adopted straightaway. Hijab is such an important concept in Islam but it's not just about clothing. It's about being modest in everything you do. I started dressing more modestly - forgoing low cut tops and short skirts - but before I donned a headscarf I had to make sure I was comfortable on the inside before turning my attention to the outside. Now I feel completely protected in my headscarf. People treat you with a new level of respect, they judge you by your words and your deeds, not how you look. It's the kind of respect every dad wants for their daughter.

"There have been some problems. Immediately after converting I isolated myself a bit, which I now recognise was a mistake and not what Islam teaches. I remember a lady on a bus who got really angry and abusive when she found out I had converted. I also noticed quite a few friends stopped calling. I think they just got tired of hearing me say no - no to going clubbing, no to going down the pub.

"But my good friends embraced it. They simply found other things to do when I was around. Ultimately I'm still exactly the same person apart from the fact that I don't drink, don't eat pork and pray five times a day. Other than that I'm still Denise."

Dawud Beale, 23
Dawud Beale was a self-confirmed "racist" two years ago who knew nothing about Islam and supported the BNP. Now a Muslim, he describes himself as a Salafi - the deeply socially conservative and ultra-orthodox sect of Islam whose followers try to live exactly like the Prophet did.

Dawud Beale, 23: "I was ignorant about Islam and then I went on holiday to Morocco, which was the first time I'd been exposed to Muslims." (Photo: Susannah Ireland)

"I was very ignorant to Islam for most of my life and then I went on holiday to Morocco, which was the first time I was exposed to Muslims. I was literally a racist before Morocco and by the time I was flying home on the plane a week later, I had already decided to become a Muslim."

"I realised Islam is not a foreign religion, but had a lot of similarities with what I already believed. When I came back home to Somerset, I spent three months trying to find local Muslims, but there wasn't even a mosque in my town. I eventually met Sufi Muslims who took me to Cyprus to convert.

"When I came back, I was finding out a lot of what they were saying was contradictory to what it said in the Qur'an. I wasn't finding them very authentic, to be honest. I went to London and became involved with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the political group who call for the establishment of an Islamic state.

"But while I believe in the benefits of Sharia law, I left this group as well. The problem was it was too into politics and not as concerned with practicing the religion. For me, it is about keeping an Islamic appearance and studying hard. I think we do need an Islamic state, but the way to achieve it is not through political activism or fighting. Allah doesn't change the situation of people until they see what's within themselves.

"I have a big dislike for culture in Islamic communities, when it means bringing new things into the religion, such as polytheism or encouraging music and dance. There is something pure about Salafi Muslims; we take every word of the Qur'an for truth. I have definitely found the right path. I also met my wife through the community and we are expecting our first child next year."

Paul Martin, 27
Paul Martin was just a student when he decided to convert to Islam in an ice-cream shop in Manchester four years ago. Bored of what he saw as the hedonistic lifestyle of many of his friends at university and attracted to what he calls "Islam's emphasis on seeking knowledge," he says a one-off meeting with an older Muslim changed his life.

Paul Martin, 27: "I liked the way the Muslim students I knew conducted themselves. It's nice to think about people having one partner for life and not doing anything harmful to their body." (Photo: Susannah Ireland)

"I liked the way the Muslims students I knew conducted themselves. It's nice to think about people having one partner for life and not doing anything harmful to their body. I just preferred the Islamic lifestyle and from there I looked into the Qur'an. I was amazed to see Islam's big emphasis on science.

"Then I was introduced by a Muslim friend to a doctor who was a few years older than me. We went for a coffee and then a few weeks later for an ice cream. It was there that I said I would like to be a Muslim. I made my shahada right there, in the ice cream shop. I know some people like to be all formal and do it in a mosque, but for me religion is not a physical thing, it is what is in your heart.

"I hadn't been to a mosque before I became a Muslim. Sometimes it can be bit daunting, I mean I don't really fit into this criteria of a Muslim person. But there is nothing to say you can't be a British Muslim who wears jeans and a shirt and a jacket. Now in my mosque in Leeds, many different languages are spoken and there are lots of converts.

"With my family, it was gradual. I didn't just come home and say I was a Muslim. There was a long process before I converted where I wouldn't eat pork and I wouldn't drink. Now, we still have Sunday dinner together, we just buy a joint of lamb that is halal.

"If someone at college had said to me 'You are going to be a Muslim', I would not in a million years have believed it. It would have been too far-fetched. But now I have just come back from Hajj - the pilgrimage Muslims make to Mecca."

Stuart Mee, 46
Stuart Mee is a divorced civil servant who describes himself as a "middle-of-the-road Muslim." Having converted to Islam last year after talking with Muslim colleagues at work, he says Islam offers him a sense of community he feels is missing in much of Britain today.

"Everything is so consumer-driven here, there are always adverts pushing you to buy the next thing. I knew there must be something longer term and always admired the sense of contentment within my colleagues' lives, their sense of peace and calmness. It was just one of those things that happened - we talked, I read books and I related to it.

"I emailed the Imam at London Central Mosque and effectively had a 15 minute interview with him. It was about making sure that this was the right thing for me, that I was doing it at the right time. He wanted to make sure I was committed. It is a life changing decision.

"It is surprisingly easy, the process of converting. You do your shahada, which is the declaration of your faith. You say that in front of two witnesses and then you think, 'What do I do next?' I went to an Islamic bookstore and bought a child's book on how to pray. I followed that because, in Islamic terms, I was basically one month old.

"I went to a local mosque in Reading and expected someone to stop me say, 'Are you a Muslim?' but it didn't happen. It was just automatic acceptance. You can have all the trappings of being a Muslim - the beard and the bits and pieces that go with it, but Islam spreads over such a wide area and people have different styles, clothes and approaches to life.

"Provided I am working within Islamic values, I see no need in changing my name and I don't have any intention of doing it. Islam has bought peace, stability, and comfort to my life. It has helped me identify just what is important to me. That can only be a good thing."

Khadijah Roebuck, 48
Khadijah Roebuck was born Tracey Roebuck into a Christian family. She was married for twenty five years and attended church with her children every week while they lived at home. Now, divorced and having practiced Islam for the last six months, she says she is still not sure what motivated her to make such a big change to her life.

"I know it sounds odd, but one day I was Tracey the Christian and the next day I was Khadijah the Muslim, it just seemed right. The only thing I knew about Muslims before was that they didn't drink alcohol and they didn't eat pork.

"I remember the first time I drove up to the mosque. It was so funny; I was in my sports car and had the music blaring. I wasn't sure if I was even allowed to go in but I asked to speak to the man in charge, I didn't even know he was called an Imam. Now I wear a hijab and pray five times a day.

"My son at first was horrified, he just couldn't believe it. It's been especially hard for my mum, who is Roman Catholic and doesn't accept it at all. But the main thing I feel is a sense of peace, which I never found with the Church, which is interesting. Through Ramadan, I absolutely loved every second. On the last day, I even cried.

"It is interesting because people sometimes confuse cultures with Islam. Each Muslim brings their different culture to the mosque and different takes on the religion. There are Saudi Arabians, Egyptians and Pakistanis and then of course there is me. I slot in everywhere. A lot of the other sisters say to me, 'That is why we love you, Khadijah, you are just yourself.'"

Source: The Independent UK

Baca lagi...

Isnin, Januari 03, 2011

War and peace in Quran and Bible

Source: Aljazeera.net
By Riz Khan

One of the widest perceptions in the Western world, especially after the attacks of September 11, is that Islam's holy book, the Quran, promotes conflict, violence and bloodshed.

Muslims argue that many of the verses of the Quran – such as the one asking the Prophet Muhammad and his followers to "slay them [unbelievers] wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out" – are taken out of context.

Muslim scholars say that the scriptures have been intentionally misused by Muslims and non-Muslims alike to advance political agendas.

Critics say that the texts promote extremism, and that Islam has left a trail of blood across world history.

Recently, Philip Jenkins, one of the world's leading religion scholars, conducted a study comparing the texts of the Quran and the Bible, and found that "the Bible contains far more verses praising or urging bloodshed than does the Quran."

Riz speaks with Philip Jenkins and Shaker Elsayed, the imam of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Centre in the US and former secretary general of the Muslim American Society.

This episode of Riz Khan aired from Wednesday, December 29, 2010.

Source: Aljazeera.net

Baca lagi...

Acknowledging political Islam

Source: Aljazeera.net
By Robert Grenier

The US has historically supported suppressive secular regimes in the Middle East, a policy with obvious shortcomings.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the Democratic opposition going against incumbent Hosni Mubarak in the upcoming elections, has catalogued the rights violations committed by the Egyptian regime. But when push comes to shove, would Western nations really support him if it meant Islamists in the periphery gaining more power? [EPA]

"Regimes that fight, survive."

The words were those of a senior member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the "house" think-tank of AIPAC, the pro-Israel US lobbying organisation. Spoken at a scholarly conference in 1992, they were meant as a reproach to people like me, who argued that an ageing generation of autocratic leaders in the Middle East risked facilitating the rise of a wave of violent, anti-democratic Islamists unless they were willing to accommodate the aspirations of the seemingly more democratically-inclined Islamists in their midst.

A movement to which we referred in those days as "political Islam" was gaining momentum throughout the region, and there was much disagreement among Western scholars and government practitioners as to how - or indeed whether - to accommodate it. The language of political opposition in the region, then as now, was overwhelmingly Islamic; the question was whether there were any useful distinctions to be made among the various Islamist currents, and whether any would permanently accept a democratic model - or instead adhere, as many feared, to a doctrine of "one man, one vote, one time."

Choosing suppression over justice
WINEP, then as now, was generally representative of right-leaning political opinion in Israel, and this case was no exception. One of the more influential voices from that quarter belonged to Binyamin Netanyahu, who argued at the time that there was a clear alignment of interests between Israel and the secular regimes of the surrounding Arab states.

The Islamist trends beginning to menace the latter were echoed in newly-ascendant Islamic-inspired Palestinian organisations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which posed the greatest threat to Israel. The secular Arab regimes, according to this line of thinking, should therefore find it in their interest to make peace with Israel and isolate the Islamists, both in Palestine and elsewhere, rather than allowing Islamic oppositionists to exploit a growing identification between Islam and Arab nationalism, and to use popular anti-Israeli sentiment to engulf both Israel and the Arab regimes alike.

Therefore, my WINEP friend argued - in suitably coded language - the Arab regimes should employ against the Islamists the repression so successfully employed by Israel in thwarting the Palestinians' popular resistance to occupation during the first Intifada: "Regimes that fight, survive."

The issues of the day were most starkly represented in Algeria, where a moderate Islamist opposition led by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) had made rapid democratic inroads, only to be brutally repressed in early 1992 by the Algerian army, just when it was on the verge of winning an overwhelming majority in the Algerian National Assembly. The muted response of the US and other Western powers to this military coup gave testament to their fear of the Islamist wave, and the primacy in their thinking of practical over ideological considerations.

Whatever their pro-democratic rhetoric, when faced with a choice between the ascension of religiously conservative Arab nationalists overtly opposed to US policy in the region on the one hand, and repression on the other, the West was prepared to support repression. My friend from WINEP, no doubt, approved.

The elusive promise of stability
Appalled at the time by what I regarded as a pusillanimous and hypocritical US policy, my dissenting view was based not just on moral, but on practical criteria. I did not believe that support for democracy should only be bestowed on those democrats favourable to us. More pointedly, however, it seemed to me that the Arab masses, if denied the opportunity for political recourse through democratic means, would turn instead to revolutionary forces who embraced a far more radical and violent conception of Islam.

And indeed, such was the path immediately taken in Algeria. With the moderate, democratic Islamist opposition imprisoned or otherwise neutralised by the regime, its place was assumed by far more radical, Takfiri elements, represented by the GSPC. Algeria descended into a cauldron of almost unimaginable violence, which was ultimately to claim as many as 200,000 lives.

All this came back to mind recently in response to an op-ed penned in the US press by Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director-General of the IAEA, and now the putative head of Egypt's democratic opposition. In it he catalogues the many abuses perpetrated by the Mubarak regime during the just-concluded Egyptian parliamentary elections, and decries the policies of Mubarak and his cronies in the NDP and the security forces not just on moral grounds, but on practical ones as well. Their tactics, he asserts, carry with them the ultimate threat of revolution, and should therefore draw the active opposition of the West: "The rights of the Egyptian people," he says, "should not be trampled in exchange for an elusive promise of stability."

I strongly agree with ElBaradei, and am convinced that the ambivalence of US attitudes toward democracy in the region - most clearly seen in the hostile US reaction to Hamas' sweeping electoral victory in 2006 - carries a clear threat of promoting long-term disaster. But one must concede that the course of history between 1992 and now much more clearly favour the old arguments put forward by WINEP than they do my own.

Shifting power structures
Consider: The Algerian civil war of the 1990s, rather than ending, as I had initially anticipated, in the defeat of a corrupt, military-dominated elite, has instead led to the thorough marginalisation of a violent Islamist movement which has discredited itself in the eyes of the people. While its face has changed, the old elite survives. And the passing of an elder generation of leaders, rather than hastening the disintegration of repressive and unrepresentative power structures across the region, has led instead to the relatively smooth transfer of power to their sons - in Morocco, in Jordan, in Syria, and in UAE. We can probably expect to see the same shortly in Libya and, most significantly, in Egypt - Mr. ElBaradei and the democratic opposition notwithstanding.

I believe it is right that ElBaradei should solicit the support of world opinion and warn of the consequences for regional stability of the continued frustration of Egypt's popular aspirations for reform. No doubt his pleas will continue to receive an encouraging echo in the Western press. But if he expects more than that, he is fooling himself. For when push comes to shove, the US and other western governments, to the extent they can influence events at all, will opt, in Mr. ElBaradei's words, for the elusive promise of stability.

It is easy to criticise an unlovely regime like that of Hosni Mubarak, and both public and private figures in the US rise enthusiastically to the task. But just let them glimpse a realistic prospect for the Egyptian Muslim Brothers to gain a significant share of power, and their enthusiasm will rapidly wane. I and others who believe as I do remain convinced that this is a significant mistake, and that the prominent current of thinking in the US which refuses to make a significant distinction between groups like the Muslim brothers and the violent Islamists who embrace the banner of Al Qaeda is wrong-headed. Our problem is that we simply cannot find compelling evidence to make our case. Absent new facts, which only the people of the region can provide, we are destined to lose the debate.

Robert Grenier is a retired, 27-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service. He was Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Source: Aljazeera.net

Baca lagi...

Sabtu, Januari 01, 2011

Muslim Women Gain Higher Profile in U.S.

Source: NYTimes.com
By Brian Knowlton

ATLANTA — Around Sept. 11, 2001, not long after she founded the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, Soumaya Khalifa heard from a group whose name sounded like “Bakers Club.” It wanted a presentation.

Soumaya Khalifa founded the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. Photograph: Kendrick Brinson for the International Herald Tribune

The address was unfamiliar, but she went anyway. The group turned out to be the Bickerers Club, whose members love to argue. Islam was their topic du jour and their venue was a tavern. Ms. Khalifa laughed, and made the best of it.

Ms. Khalifa, who was born in Egypt and raised in Texas, wears a head scarf but also juggles, comfortably, the demands of American suburbia: crowded schedule, minivan and all.

She is one of a type now found in most sizable U.S. cities: vocal Muslim women wary of the predominantly male leadership of their community and increasingly weary of suspicions of non-Muslims about Islam.

These women have achieved a level of success and visibility unmatched elsewhere. They say they are molded by the freedoms of the United States — indeed, many unabashedly sing its praises — and by the intellectual ferment stirred when American-born and immigrant Muslims mix.

“What we’re seeing now in America is what has been sort of a quiet or informal empowerment of women,” said Shireen Zaman, executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a nonprofit research institute founded after the 2001 attacks to provide research on American Muslims. “In many of our home countries, socially or politically it would’ve been harder for Muslim women to take a leadership role. It’s actually quite empowering to be Muslim in America.”

As Najah Bazzy, a American-born nurse and founder of several charities in Michigan, put it: “Yeah I’m Arab, yeah I’m very American, and yeah I’m very Islamic, but you put those things in the blender and I’m no longer just a thing. I’m a new thing.”

It is not always easy. Several of the Muslim women interviewed for this article said they had been the object of abusive letters, e-mails or blog posts.

Yet in their quest to break stereotypes, America’s Muslim women have advantages. They are better educated than counterparts in Western Europe, and also than the average American, according to a Gallup survey in March 2009. In contrast to their sisters in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, they are just as likely as their menfolk to attend religious services, which equates to greater influence. And Gallup found that Muslim American women, often entrepreneurial, come closer than women of any other faith to earning what their menfolk do.

“Muslims coming to North America are often seeking an egalitarian version of Islam,” said Ebrahim Moosa, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. “That forces women onto the agenda and makes them much more visible than, say, in Western Europe.”

Besides her speakers’ bureau, which advertises itself as “a bridge between Islam and Americans of other faiths,” Ms. Khalifa heads a consultancy working with students, executives, soldiers and even the F.B.I. to overcome stereotypes. Some people she addresses have never met a Muslim. Some look askance at head scarves.

Ms. Khalifa, who has degrees in chemistry and human resources, began wearing a head scarf in her mid-30s, about 15 years ago. At first, she said, people looked at her “like I was different, Muslim, un-American, stupid.”

But she is quietly persistent. When a small-town newspaper refused to run Ms. Khalifa’s ad listing the hours of a nearby mosque, she organized a successful boycott by local churchmen.

Perhaps the most noticed figure among American Muslim women is Ingrid Mattson. In a bright-red jumper and multicolored head scarf, she stood out among the gray-haired clerics in black who gathered in Washington in September to try and defuse the anger over the planned mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York.

Ms. Mattson, who is 47 and teaches at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, became the first woman to head the Islamic Society of North America, one of the largest Muslim associations on the continent.

She was first elected vice president on Sept. 4, 2001, then president in 2006, a position she held until September; those years were so full of sound and fury over all things Muslim that gender took a back seat.

“But what happened on Sept. 11 and after has led American Muslims to be more involved in civic society,” Ms. Mattson said, “and Muslim women were finding that a very rich area for activity.”

“The only area where there’s a limitation is religious leadership — the imam,” she added, predicting that “we will have some communities in the future that have female imams.”

Historically, Muslim women have wielded power from behind the scenes, with notable exceptions like Benazir Bhutto, the late former prime minister of Pakistan. A 2009 survey of the world’s most influential Muslims by Georgetown University and the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center listed just 2 women in the top 50: a Syrian religious leader and Queen Rania, wife of the Jordanian king. Ms. Mattson received an honorable mention.

Tayyibah Taylor founded Azizah to celebrate Muslim women of achievement. Photograph: Kendrick Brinson for the International Herald Tribune

Muslim women in the United States reflect the country’s diversity: white converts like Ms. Mattson, women of Middle Eastern background like Ms. Khalifa, or Tayyibah Taylor, a convert of Caribbean descent in Atlanta who founded a glossy magazine, Azizah, to celebrate Muslim women of achievement.

The magazine may profile “America’s first all-Muslim, all-female law group” or a hijab-wearing flight attendant, but it also takes up issues like AIDS and spousal abuse. Despite its struggles, Azizah, with a circulation of 45,000, recently celebrated its 10th birthday.

Azizah is a magazine for Muslim women published in Atlanta. Photograph: Kendrick Brinson for the International Herald Tribune

“I didn’t see Islam as taking my freedoms as a woman,” said Ms. Taylor, who is 57 and studied the Koran in Jidda for six years. “It really opened up worlds for me.”

The Muslim population in Atlanta, now estimated at 80,000, has its roots in the 1950s, when a small group of Nation of Islam worshipers, mostly black men, met in a grubby building shared with a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Waves of immigrants from South Asia, the Middle East or, most recently, Bosnia and Herzegovina, swelled its ranks. The metropolitan area, with 5.5 million people, now has 40 mosques.

But while Muslim women have gained prominence, much of their activity remains outside the mosque.

“There is a missing link in terms of what the Muslim religion teaches about gender equality,” Ms. Khalifa said. “The leadership in our mosques is not reflective of our population — there are hardly any women.”

Imam Plemon T. el-Amin, a retired leader of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, talked of “a slow move — really an indecisiveness — about getting women fully involved in day-to-day Islamic activities.” That, he said, is changing.

One issue is gender separation at prayer, imposed to reflect Islamic notions of modesty. In some mosques, women are relegated to separate rooms. But, Imam el-Amin said, “I’m seeing mosques do much better at trying to make those separate accommodations equal.”

Ms. Mattson’s election to lead the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, was a signal moment.

Her election “broke a barrier and made it much more acceptable for women to take a leading role as leaders of the entire community, not just women,” said Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and a former adviser on faith issues in the Obama White House.

Imam el-Amin added, “That’s exactly what ISNA and many of the Muslim organizations needed to see.”

Source: NYTimes.com

Baca lagi...