Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bahrain and Iran - Women's Dress

When I lived in Bahrain in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, I thought Muslim women were steadily evolving away from the covered heads and black cloaks (abayas) of earlier decades. I almost never saw someone with a veil over her face.

True, the Khomeini Revolution forced Iranian women back into black covering from head to foot, but even in Iran, faces-without the forbidden makeup-were unveiled.

When I returned to Bahrain in 2006, after 16 years away, I found the changes in dress startling. Not more modern, as I would have predicted in the 80s, but distinctly more traditional. In the malls, almost all women wore the ankle length black abaya, but its style had changed. No longer a cape that covered the head and extended over the body, the abaya had transitioned to a black, ankle-length dress, supplemented by a black head covering that often included a veil over the face.

Although former students told me that many of the veiled women were from Saudi Arabia, now easily accessible over the causeway that connected the two countries, many Bahrainis dressed the same. "Why the change?" I asked in every conversation.

Diverse explanations were proposed, but all centered on the fact that Muslims felt their faith to be threatened, and dress became a way of affirming their Muslim identity.

Some suggested that the Khomeini Revolution, the Afghan-Soviet conflict, or the Gulf War of 1990 had triggered the concern. Others proposed that the changing role of women, with much greater involvement in higher education and employment, led them to choose conservative dress to demonstrate that a change in life style was not a rejection of the faith.

I returned in 2009 wondering if the trend toward traditional dress had intensified. It had not. Perhaps not enough time has passed for a definite conclusion, but my impression is that fewer women veil their faces and the abaya has become a more fashionable outer covering. The cover picture for my book was taken this year and although most of the girls wear an abaya, it is not the traditional sleeveless cape. Wide, embroidered sleeves are clearly visible. Most of the women wear a black scarf over their hair but in the background are several with uncovered heads and no abaya. This is also what I observed on the street and shops.

Unlike Iran or Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has no laws regulating women's dress. The pressure to conform to what others are wearing, felt by women everywhere, has a major role in determining dress in Bahrain. Probably the choices are more complex there because of the tension between religiously backed tradition and newer trends that assert a changed role for women.

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have laws governing woman's dress. I had little direct experience with Saudi women's dress on my recent trip, but I spent nearly two weeks in Iran.

As I planned my Iranian trip, I remembered the dress restrictions inaugurated by Khomeini in 1979 and imposed by harsh treatment of women who protested. With this in mind, I borrowed an abaya with sleeves and packed several scarves to cover my head. Although I saw similar garments in rural provinces, I was out of step in the cities, where the women have largely abandoned the ankle-length chador (abaya). The new style is a knee-length, fitted coat-dress worn over pants. Far from shapeless, this manteau is often cinched with a wide belt, producing a rather modern and stylish look.

Other restrictions enforced in the early Khomeini years are also gone. Make-up is universal, and although a scarf is required by law, inches of hair show on all women except those in official positions who wear a uniform black scarf that fits smoothly around the oval of their face. No faces are veiled.

I eventually abandoned my efforts to dress inconspicuously. When I did not wear my borrowed abaya in the cities, I was left with my usual cotton pants and long sleeved shirts. Provided my head was covered, these were perfectly acceptable by Iranian law, but the light colors I normally wear drew attention in a society where women universally wear dark colors. Under a navy blue manteau, an Iranian college girl might wear blue jeans, but the overall effect is dark.

This is not true for school girls for whom pastels are the rule. I saw many girls, aged perhaps 7 to 14, as they left school or were on their way home and all wore pants covered by a knee length tunic with a head covering of the same color. Each school had its distinctive color. Pale blue and pink seemed to be popular choices. Are light colors considered suitable only for children, with darker colors indicating maturity? I could only observe.

Muslim women in all countries dress in compliance to the Islamic mandate that their bodies be covered from neck to ankles. Although Bahrain and Iran are close geographically, women dress quite differently. My tentative conclusion, based on limited time in these two countries, is that women's dress in the Middle East is diverse and evolving. My tentative conclusion, based on limited time in these two countries, is that women's dress in the Middle East is diverse and evolving.


The Other Face of Islam

The Ahmadiyyah movement (Ahmadi) is a sect in Islam which was founded towards the end of the 19th century in Punjab, India, and spread from there to different countries. Most members of the sect are centered in South-East Asia: India, Pakistan and Indonesia, and it numbers 15 Million believers.

The members of the sect preach enlightenment, peace, and brotherhood between nations and love of others. The Ahmadiyyah way opposes religious coercion, and therefore does not support spreading Islam through Jihad, "Holy War". They prefer placatory persuasion. The sect is named for its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (1835-1908), who, at the age of 40, announced that Allah has entrusted him with the task of renewing the Muslim religion and bringing justice and integrity to the world.

The Principles of the Ahmadiyyah obligate its believers to be loyal to their country of residence. A believer of the sect can not defy the laws of his country, so he can live in peace in this world. Muhammad Sharif, head of the Ahmadiyyah in Israel, explains: "As a citizen I am bound to obey Allah, the Prophet and those who lead the country even if I do not approve of the leader". The Ahmadiyyah are forbidden from joining demonstrations, even ones on behalf of peace.

Faced with the traditional Islamic belief, that Muhammad is the Final Prophet, the Ahmadis maintain that even following his death prophecy still remained, and it was transferred to the founder of the sect and his students. The Ahmadiyyah sees itself as a global religion that is supposed to include not only Muslims, but also Christians, Jews and Hindis.

According to Ahmadi belief, Jesus was a man who was neither crucified nor transported to heaven, but was taken down from the tree by his students, traveled to India, where he died at the age of 120 in Srinagar, Kashmir. Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the sect, is in their eyes a reincarnation of both Jesus and Muhammad. He is the promised "Mujaddid". For his followers, he is the "Mahdi", a savior or a messiah, and there are those who see him as a prophet.

Once India split into a Hindu state and a Muslim state, the religious center was transferred to Pakistan. The movement was persecuted in Pakistan for years, and moved its religious activity to London. Today, centers of the Ahmadi movement can be found in many countries. During the hundred years of its existence, the Ahmadiyyah sect has managed to create a well organized movement, including missionary forces, educational institutions and cultivated religious centers, spread over many countries around the world: In Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

The Ahmadis in Israel

According to Muhammad Sharif Odeh, head of the Ahmadi in Israel, the sect has 1500 members in Israel. On the 17th of March 1928, the "Center of the Ahmadi Delegation to the Middle-East Countries" was transferred from Damascus to Kababir village on Mt. Carmel in Haifa. Today the village is a neighborhood of a thousand, surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods. The Ahmadi community in Haifa has a large octagonal Mosque patterned after the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The current head of the sect in Israel is the son of its founder in Israel. The sect has a number of vehicles to spread its beliefs: A monthly magazine named "Al-Busra Al-Islamia Al-Ahmadiyyah" (The Ahmadiyyah Muslim Gospel); a website, as well as a satellite television station, mta.tv.

Although the sect's religious center hosts organized groups from the entire country, not many have heard of it. "It does not interest the media, because we provide no action", Muhammad Sharif Odeh tells Omedia, "Maybe because we do not throw rocks". It is possible that they are ignored because they broadcast a message of "Love for All, Hatred for None", while the media in Israel is deficient in its reporting methods and publishes mainly news items and articles of the "dog bites man" genre.

According to the Ahmadis, the main problem of radical Islam is the distorted interpretation of the Quran that the fundamentalists have adopted. According to Sharif, the problem in Islam, as in other religions, is the total adherence to the words of clerics, whose words are perceived as the words of Allah. "We believe that the interpreter can be mistaken. Let us return to the source rather than to interpretations that divide between people, as if a religious ruling of a cleric is the divine word, similar to what obtains in the Catholic Church, where the Pope is infallible".

Sharif notes that the perception of "Muhammad Baseif", i.e. the call to spread Islam by the sword, does not appear at all in the Quran, nor is it mentioned in the Hadith (Interpretations by Muslim wise men). "It is just an invention of some Sheikh. It does not obligate me, nor any other Muslim".

According to Sharif, the meaning of the word Jihad as it appears in the Quran means a supreme effort, endeavor, and not the interpretation adopted later. They are bound, so they say, by the original interpretation of the word. The call of Jihad, for them is: "Call to your sovereign, and argue with him in the best way possible. Islam clearly states that you can not employ coercion and force in matters of religion and faith".

Elastic Rules

Bu the problem of the Ahmadis is not with normal interpretation, but specifically with an interpretation that "contradicts the text". Sharif defines it: "An interpretation that harms the principles of justice or contradicts science. All the time you need to return to the source, reinvestigate the religion. In Islam the rules are not set in stone, but elastic, and dependent on the changing situation. If there is a scientific development that contradicts an existing interpretation then that interpretation is no longer holy". It should be noted that one of the recent Nobel Laureates in physics, Prof. Abdul Salam, is a member of the Ahmadi sect.

The Ahmadiyyah Movement published an ad opposing the latest comments by the Pope against Muhammad, but which also criticized the "barbaric" reaction, as Sharif terms it, to these comments. Sharif says it would have been better to respond to the Pope with words, "With scientific proof and not by burning churches (Such as after the caricatures in Denmark). Nobody has the right to injure another for no reason. The Quran clearly states that you are forbidden to damage the prayer locations of other faiths".

Radical Islam is a misrepresentation of Islam. The Ahmadi call upon their fellow Muslims "Let us return to the Quran. We will not find any verse in the Quran that forces anyone to accept the religion or a verse that speaks of a Muslim theocracy. The Quran clearly states 'if you are a ruler - rule justly'. If an atheist is fit to be a minister or prime minister, there is no reason not to choose him. I need to choose a person who fits the job professionally, not because of his religion and nationality. We should return to the Quran and not the interpretations that serve as a stumbling block by differentiating between religions and nations. This interpretation has transformed religion into a source of hatred and hostility - into a new form of Paganism. It is an attempt to conquer another in Allah's name". The Ahmadi sect, according to Sharif is a nonpolitical movement and therefore is opposed to involving religion being in political issues.

"As Muslims, We Have Made Terrible Mistakes"

Sharif does not deny Islam's militant past, and notes that "The Muslims have made terrible mistakes". However, according to him it can not be attributed to the core of Islam. The Quran teaches how to treat the enemy. The founder of the sect said, based on the Quran: "The principle is that in our heart we have love for all of humankind. Loving every human is the duty of a good believer. I love humankind as a mother loves her children. The Muslim within you is the part doing its best to bring happiness to all. And that is a universal message, rather than one based on sector".

Muhammad Sharif does not know where the Muslim insult to Jews "sons of monkeys and pigs" derives from. "Some very horrible mistakes resulted from interpretations which originated in Islam", and notes that the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, furnishes a similar example of horrible deeds inspired by Christianity.

No Religious Distinction

According to Sharif, the Quran is a collection of all holy books which preceded it. "A Muslim has no qualms with any religion. There is no real difference between Chirstianity and Judaism and Islam. Each one complements the other". He states that in the Quran there is a call for an alliance between those who believe in one God, "that we have no god aside from Allah". The sect forbids looking down on others because of their religion and nationality. The prayers in the Ahmadiyyah mosque are the same as in any other mosque, but Sharif emphasizes that "once the rite becomes an end and not a means, religion transforms itself into a form of paganism".

When it comes to the sacredness of Islamic land (The Waqf), the Ahmadiyyah movement also takes a different approach. As Sharif explains: "The Prophet of Islam said that it is better that the Kaaba (The holiest location in Islam) be destroyed brick by brick, than to allow one drop of blood to be shed. Why die for Al-Aqsa? For the holiness of stones?

An Unequivocal Stance Opposing Terror

As a result of his approach, Sharif's stance on terror is clear. Sharif notes that those who executed terror attacks "Received legitimization from religious rulings" and notes that he has managed to make some people transfer from activity in radical Palestinian movement to adopting the Ahmadi views. "Not with Apache helicopters, but by proving to them that terror goes against the Quran". For example, a former terrorist from Tul-Karem, currently lectures at the Ahmadiyyah religious center.

In an interview to Omedia, Sharif also referred to September 11 unequivocally. "It is a terrible thing, even in the midst of a war of self defense. Islam clearly states 'God does not like to create hostility', but even during an attack and in a war of self defense, the Prophet of Islam said clearly to all 'do not kill women and elders, do not kill children, do not kill a woman, do not even harm a tree'. These are the words of the Prophet Muhammad. A true Muslim does not harm others, not by words nor by deeds".

Islam's Treatment of Ahmadis

In the Arab press the Ahmadis are venomously attacked: "They depict us as evil, as collaborators with the English, and even as creatures of the English. They also call us enemies and collaborators with the Jews", and they have even termed us the 'new Islam from Tel-Aviv'. The internet has hundreds of hate sites against the sect and the malevolent preaching against them in the Mosques, before mass audiences, continues.

The Ahmadis in Israel, unlike their brethren in the West Bank, are not ashamed for being part of the sect. "In the West Bank the members of the sect fear to reveal their identity, because there is a new religious ruling issued by the supreme council of the Muftis", says Sharif. "The Mufti of Nablus delivered a ruling last year against the sect characterizing us as converts. This is worse than being a heretic. In the orthodox Muslim approach, those who convert from Islam are sentenced for death".

Sharif notes that the newspaper of the Islamic Movement in Israel "Sauth Al Haq" also terms them converts. The Movement has also published a book against the Ahmadis. This situation has physical repercussions in the Muslim world. Last year, a terrorist entered an Ahmadiyyah mosque in Bangladesh and carried out a mass murder of worshippers during prayer.

Despite the war waged against them, there are new members from the West Bank as well - from Tul-Karem, Nablus, Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, and villages near Jenin. According to Sharif, a few also join from villages in the Galilee and the Sharon. He is happy to note that most of the new members are young and most of them are academics.

The Right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel

Beyond noting the fact that Ahmadis are loyal to the country where they dwell, such as Israel, Sharif does not hesitate to mention the right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel, as it appears in the Quran. "It is clearly written in the Sura (chapter) of the People of Israel that this right is granted them by Allah", says Sharif. And he adds: "A prophecy written in the Quran 1400 years ago, clearly declared that God will bring the People of Israel to the Land of Israel from all over the world, and there would be an ingathering of the exiles in the land of Israel - and this enjoins a true Muslim to enter a dialog with the 'People of the Book' (The Jewish People were first called so in the Quran - R.F.) and it states: 'Do not argue with the People of the Book, but only in the most appropriate of ways".

According to Sharif, the Quran does not call for harming a Jew because he is a Jew. He notes the opening Sura that states: "God, bless me as you have blessed them (The Jews)". As for the inter-religious dialogue, Sharif notes that despite his meeting with Rabbi Shaar Yishuv Hacohen, Haifa's Rabbi, there is no inter-religious dialogue of real depth. He believes that "If you know the other well rather than superficially, you will change your opinion of him".

Peace Begins with Moderate Islam

In light of the rampage of radical Islam, it is refreshing to listen to one who clearly corresponds to the definition of "moderate Islam" - the Ahmadiyyah movement. If there is to be a prospect for a better world in general and in our region specifically, it is important that the messages transmitted by the Ahmadis reach attentive ears in the Muslim world, especially Muslims in Israel, and even those within pre 1967 Israel..

The success of this progressive movement would gradually moderate the hate level radical Islam in Israel, i.e. the Islamic Movement and all its wings, including the Southern one (The Southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel is considered more moderate), so that it would harbor less hatred to Jews and the Jewish State. Then there would be hope for true peace in the region. It is also important for Jews to know of this sect, so that we may understand that there is a different Islam, and the desire for peace begins not only with us, but with them, as well.

Ran Farhi is the political and media matters commentator in "Omedia", The leading site in security and terrorism issues, focusing on the Middle East and matters concerning Israel.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Review of Islam in NYT Book Review

The January 6, 2008 edition of the New York Times Book Review was devoted to "Islam," as the header for the edition boldly proclaims. The edition aims to highlight some of the most relevant historical, literary, political and theological issues informing contemporary discourse around the topic of Islam, as it is found in recent literature. The effort to shed light on such an important subject is laudable. What follows are my comments on the various articles and essays. They follow the order presented in the Book Review. 1. This issue of the Book Review begins with Tariq Ramadan's excellent essay Reading the Koran. Ramadan is able to capture in a concise essay both the simplicity and the nuanced complexity of the Koran (Qur'an). Its simplicity is rooted in its ability to singularly address the believing heart. At this level the Qur'an is simple and universally accessible. Each person finds in its message, filtered through the prism of his or her personal experiences, knowledge, joy, pain, triumphs and setbacks, a distinct intimacy. At this level, the message requires "no intermediary." This is the basis of what Ramadan refers to as the dialogue that exists between the Qur'an and its reader. Ramadan beautifully captures the spirit of that dialogue.

However, the Qur'an is also nuanced and its message can be quite complex at another level, a more complex one that seeks to accurately understand the legal, social, and moral implications of the message. Here, the challenge, Ramadan informs us, is "to derive the Islamic prescriptions that govern matters of faith, of religious practice, and of its fundamental precepts." Here literalism and dogma do not take one very far, although they inform much of the contemporary polemics surrounding discussions of the Qur'anic messages in the pontification of both Muslims and non-Muslims.

As Ramadan mentions, this is a domain that requires the specialized methodological tools of the Qur'anic scholar. It is those tools that allow for the productive application of reason to the divine text. That such an application is possible is illustrated throughout the long history of Islam, and captured in the rich literate we have inherited from the great Qur'anic exegetes. These methodological tools, would include a deep knowledge of the poetry and language of the Arabs, grammar, rhetoric, logic, knowledge of the Meccan and Medinan verses (signs) of the Qur'an, and other sciences that Ramadan does not mention.

Possession of those tools is augmented by the possession of a final, critical one that Ramadan does expound on-a deep spirituality that creates an inseparable fusion between the heart and the mind. It is this fusion that really opens the door to a faithful and deep understanding of the guidance contained in the Qur'an. In Ramadan's words, "Reason opens the Book and reads it-but it does so in the company of the heart, of spirituality."

In our day the need for a deeper reading of the Qur'an has perhaps never been greater, for the vast difference between the society that witnessed the original revelation of the text and the time we live in has never been greater. Hence, there is a tremendous need for a harmonizing between the text and our context, a harmonization that is impossible as long as there is not a deep harmony between the heart and the mind. Ramadan makes this point quite emphatically. If we Muslims are able to effect a reconciliation between our hearts, which are oftentimes blinded by the sometimes luminous, sometimes dark glare of the modern condition, and our minds, which are oftentimes numbed by the seductive illusion of certitude, then perhaps we can help to effect a reconciliation between not only the text of the Qur'an and the context we endeavor to apply its guidance in, but also between the various people vying for preeminence, or simply trying to survive in an increasingly interconnected world.

2. Irshad Manji's review of John Kelsey's, Arguing The Just War in Islam, is plagued by two of the tendencies that characterize her own works-namely, a strong ideological bias and the lack of a deep understanding of Islamic Law, exegesis, and methodology. Both of these tendencies work to undermine the seriousness of her scholarship and the veracity of her conclusions.

An example of the former is illustrated by her comment on Kelsay's statement that in the light of classical Islamic legal reasoning civilian deaths may be justifiable "when an enemy's military resources are deployed in the midst of a civilian population. ...Soldiers whose actions take place under such conditions are excused from the guilt associated with unjust killing." Manji comments, "That ruling would let Israeli Defense Forces of the hook for collateral damage in their 2006 war in Lebanon, since Hizbollah deliberately operated in residential Beirut." Manji's defense of the IDF would be more credible, but no more acceptable, if the destruction caused by the IDF during the war was restricted to the slums of southern Beirut. However, it does little to excuse the killing of hundreds of Lebanese civilians in areas where there was no Hizbollah presence, the wanton destruction of Lebanese civilian infrastructure, and the dumping of hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs on Lebanese fields and arable farmland. Are these to be glibly dismissed as forms of collateral damage that Muslims have no moral or theological authority to question because of a perceived loophole in classical Islamic strategic thinking?

The latter tendency is illustrated by her concluding remarks surrounding the Qur'anic verse that "tells believers that slaying an innocent is like slaying all of mankind unless it is done to punish villainy." She goes on the mention the incumbency of "reform-minded Muslims" reinterpreting this verse. She then concludes that the nature of that reinterpretation "could well be the next chapter in reclaiming Shariah reasoning and the richness of Islam itself." To reduce the reform of Islamic legal thought to the reinterpretation of a single verse, particularly the one is question is a highly untenable proposition.

Although Kelsay's work is probably quite insightful, it is indicative of a genre of writing about Islam that is highly problematic. That literature seeks to explain developments in the Islamic world based on easily sensationalized cultural variables that pale in the face of the analytical strength of other more nuanced ones. In this case the cultural variable is religion. Manji quotes Kelsay as saying, "Those who wish to argue that Islam has nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11 or the tactics of Iraqi 'insurgents' will find no comfort here..."

The implicit assumption underlying this statement is that if we can understand Islam, specifically its legal reasoning, then we can understand why 9/11 occurred or why the Iraqi insurgents choose the tactics they do. I would argue that Islamic legal reasoning has little to do with understanding either. If suicide terrorism is the issue to be explained then Islam would give us little insight into what motivated the Tamil Tigers when they were engaging in arguably the prototypical-and to date the most successful-suicide terror campaign in history. If car-bombing is the tactic to be explained then Islam will do little to explain the ruthless campaigns of the Zionist Stern Gang in Palestine during the 1940s, or the highly effective campaign of the Viet Cong and their supporters during the American campaign in Viet Nam during the 1960s. How does Islam inform the tactics of contemporary Islamic radicals who employ such methods in ways that differ fundamentally from the two groups mentioned above? As Robert Pape demonstrates in the case of suicide bombings it would be far more productive to consider other variables.

If any one thinks that the application of "premodern precedents" goes further in explaining contemporary acts of violence in the Muslim world than globalization, foreign occupation, economic marginalization, inadequate education, and a host of other factors, then that misunderstanding will not only inform flawed policies for dealing with the current crisis, it will also help to perpetuate the type of ignorance that lends public support to those policies.

It is interesting the Book Review did not choose to highlight a publication that deals with the types of explanations I mention above. Pape's, Dying to Win, Michael Scheuer's, Imperial Hubris, and Olivier Roy's Globalized Islam are examples of works that could have been mentioned in this regard. This is not to argue that Kelsay's thesis has no validity. However, its true relevance is highly questionable.

3. Jeffrey Goldberg's, Seeds of Hate, is a review of Matthias Kuntzel's, Jihad and Jew Hatred: Islamism, Nazism, and the Roots of 9/11. Goldberg echoes Kuntzel is seeing the poorly packaged nonsense that is at the basis of Jew-hatred that does exist in the Muslim world as "scandalously ubiquitous." The Muslim world is quite expansive, and it would be a stretch of the imagination to think that the sort of anti-Jewish hatred that appears in pamphlets littering some of the bookstores of the Arab heartland of Islam is widespread in places like Muslim West Africa, the Muslim nations of Central Asia, or the Southern Philippines. Even Goldberg realizes that we are not talking about a ubiquitous phenomenon and more accurately states at the end of his article, "Still Kuntzel is right to state that we are witnessing a terrible explosion of anti-Jewish hatred in the Middle East..."

The dubious nature of Kuntzel's claim along with an indication of the nature of the scholarship supporting it is found his allegation that (in Goldberg's words) "two Muslim leaders in particular willingly and knowingly carried Nazi ideology directly to the Muslim masses." These two leaders are the Palestinian, Amin al-Husseini, and the founder of the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna. During his lifetime, to say nothing of today, it would be difficult to find a Muslim outside of Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia who had even heard of Amin al-Husseini. Although Hasan al-Banna's ideas would be indirectly influential in the programs of some Islamic organizations, such the Jamaati Islami of India and Pakistan, that influence was largely confined to a few countries outside of the Arab heartland of Islam, and did not extend beyond the Western-educated elite that formed the backbone of such movements. The masses in those lands were always attached to more traditional types of Islamic organizations such as the Sufi brotherhoods.

In mentioning the role of Hasan al-Banna in transferring those hideous ideas from their European birthplace to the Muslim world, Kuntzel gives too much weight to a yet to be resurgent Islam. The role of Arab nationalism, and nationalist thinkers such as Sati al-Husri during the 1930s and 1940s in that transferal is far more significant. Those were the heady days of the Arab nationalist revolution, and nationalist thinkers such as al-Husri, Michel Aflaq and others saw far more to be learned from the mass mobilization techniques, the manipulation of nationalist symbols, and the racist propaganda of Mussolini and Hitler than Islamic figures like al-Banna ever did.

Kuntzel's use of the word "Jihad" in his title is also significant. The juxtaposition of "Jihad" and "Jew-Hatred" seems to suggest that somehow Jew-hatred has something to do with motivating the actions of 21st Century jihadists. Such a linkage would be very difficult to prove. Most analysts of contemporary jihad movements note the almost total neglect both Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have given to the Palestinian problem. When it is mentioned by them or their cohorts, it is usually done so in a language that bespeaks of tokenism. Why then use such language? I would argue that it is an emotive way of obscuring the real issues pushing some Muslims to violence.

The same could be said by the inclusion of the phrase, "...and the Roots of 9/11," in the subtitle. Even those who accept the woefully inadequate official version of the events of that day seldom if ever mention the hatred of Jews as being one of the factors motivating those implicated in carrying out the attacks. It is again curious that Kuntzel would make such a linkage.

Kuntzel does point to a real problem. However, he appears to be overly simplistic in his analysis of its origins, and by implication its solution. To his credit, Goldberg points out this oversimplification. As he implies, the "excess and cruelty" of Israel has to be seen as a factor in the emergence of virulent Jew-hatred in parts of the Muslim world. That does not excuse it. However, it is certainly a factor in explaining it.

4. Fouad Ajami's essay dealing with Sam Huntington's Clash of Civilization thesis is his acknowledgement that Huntington was right all along. It took the events of 9/11 to lead Ajami to see the light. As Ajami states, "Those 19 young Arabs who struck America on 9/11 were to give Huntington more of history's compliance than he ever could have imagined." He further observes that those radicals and their ilk had "overwhelmed the order of their homelands..."

All of this strikes me as strange. As far as I can see it is authoritarian business as usual in all of the Muslim countries that have witnessed the threat of radical Islam. Egypt dutifully crushed Ayman Zawahiri and his minions, forcing them to seek refuge in the caves of Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia has survived the challenge of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda without even a minor disruption in the flow of oil. Even in Pakistan, a land where the radical Muslim youth are seen as most menacing, far from being overwhelmed, President Musharraf, along with the military and feudal land-owing elites he serves as a front for are firmly in charge. No informed observer would believe otherwise. Musharraf has been able to skillfully use various Islamic groups to give the impression of an exaggerated Islamic threat to his western backers; and of course, he is the only one capable of dealing with that threat.

In the most secular of Muslim countries, Tunisia, the vanquished Islamic movement, and its exiled leader, Rashid al-Ghanoushi, show little signs of a comeback. Even in Turkey, where Ajami places an exaggerated emphasis on the Islamists roots of the current ruling party, it is clear that the politicians, regardless of their Islamist origins, tow the army's line and have been forced to engage in many embarrassing compromises to prevent the direct intervention of the avowedly secular military into the political arena. In the Central Asian Muslim republics, brutal repression prevents the emergence of even a peaceful Islamic movement.

Ajami's effort to lend credence to Huntington's thesis leads to an incredible lack of analytical depth. He cites for example the fact that the percentage of the world's population under the direct political control of the west has fallen from 40 percent in 1900 to 15 percent in 1990, whereas Islam's share has risen from 4 percent in 1900 to 13 percent in 1990. Even if we discard the fact that most of the growth in the Islamic realm can be attributed to disproportionately high population growth rates, Ajami's failure to grasp the nature of neo-colonization is telling. The premise of the new colonization is that it no longer requires expensive and politically-damaging direct control. The details of the working of new relationships of domination and control are well known, and their impact on the developing world is well documented.

Ajami's analysis also ignores the economic realities of the current global system. If we were to look at the economic domination of the former colonial powers we would surely find that the forms of economic dependency in the former colonies, and wealth sharing patterns between them and their old vassals has actually worsened. The nature of globalization has rendered whole sectors of the population of many developing countries structurally unemployed or unemployable, even in places like India where a relative handful of people have benefited by the "outsourcing" of IT services.

To make his case Ajami must overlook other critical developments, such as a pervasive western-orchestrated globalization that is just as severe in the Muslim world as it is elsewhere. The young Arabs and Muslims Ajami sees as the "shock-troops of a new radicalism" are wearing blue jeans, blazers and communicating via cell phones and the internet. Their frustration in many instances is bred by the lack of control they have over their life chances because of the vagaries of the global economy.

9/11 notwithstanding, Huntington's clash of civilizations is bad history and it is bad social science. From a historical perspective it would be difficult to argue that Islam and Christianity are two distinct civilizations. They both spring from common roots and are integrated by the dynamics that have forged the peoples of the Mediterranean region into an integrated if oftentimes conflicting whole. The diet, language, dress, and social mores of a Palestinian Christian differ little form those of a Palestinian Muslim. To posit that religion alone somehow casts them into divergent civilizations, civilizations defined by culture no less, is not a sound proposition. If somehow European Christians are distinct from their Latin American or Middle Eastern brethren, something that Huntington seems to suggest, then those differences likely have nothing to do with religion.

The clash of civilization thesis is based on many conclusions that do not stand up to facts. For example, Huntington claims that sharing a common civilization will mitigate conflicts that do occur. Yet the two world wars, fought primarily between the Christians of Europe were the bloodiest and most costly conflicts in history. More recently in the Muslim world the Iran-Iraq War, which raged from 1980 until 1988, leading to the deaths of well over one million combatants, was the bloodiest war in the history of the region despite the fact that both sides were Muslim. Sharing a common "culture" was no mitigating factor in these conflagrations.

Furthermore, the neat fault lines Huntington draws up are not so clear on the ground. Was the 1991 Gulf War an example of a clash of civilizations? The Christian American and Brits teamed up with the Muslim Saudis and Kuwaitis to destroy Muslim Iraq. How do we draw the fault lines in looking at that conflict?

Ajami grudgingly concedes, "I still harbor doubts about whether the radical Islamists knocking at the gates of Europe, or assaulting it from within, are bearers of a whole civilization." I can assure Mr. Ajami that they are not even the bearers of a partial civilization. As Olivier Roy points out they are the children of globalization. Furthermore, unlike the Ottoman Turks when they twice besieged Vienna, they are not knocking at the gates of Europe, and unless some European country grants them a visa they can get no where near the estate.

5. William Dalrymple's review of Ghalib Lakhnawi and Abdullah Bilgrami's The Adventure of Amir Hamza is a welcome addition the Book Review's collection. Such works go a lot further than any number of speeches or educational initiatives to humanize the Muslim world. With so much attention given to the bloody things that lead in the headlines of the coverage given by the western media to the Muslim world, it is refreshing to read about a great work of literature. Dalrymple's concise overview of the development of this genre of writing is lucid and insightful.

His review is also saddening, for as he points out, this art form, along with virtually of all the classical Islamic arts-with the notable exception of calligraphy-are almost dead. In this context, Dalrymple issues a subtle challenge to Muslims when he states, "If the Sackler's "Hamzanama" exhibition was the first time a Western audience has been exposed to the Hamza story, it also served as a wake-up call to Urdu and Persian scholars. It quickly emerged that this epic, said to be the longest single romance cycle in the world, has been almost forgotten." The wake-up call Dalrymple mentions extends far beyond scholars of Persian and Urdu. It is one that should be heeded by all Muslims.

Being a viable and competitive nation includes far more than the ability to produce doctors and engineers, the primary professions most Muslim parents direct their children towards. Without relevant and engaged scholars in the humanities and social sciences, it is difficult to see how the type of Islamic world expressed in the pages of the Hamza tales will be recaptured. That world is a world rooted in the realities that are shaped by real people engaging the world on human terms. It is a world capable of producing great art and literature, a world of subtleties and nuances, a world of heroes and heroines.

A true revival of Islamic civilization does not require a return to the prophetic epoch, nor does it require starting from scratch in the face of the novel contingencies presented by the modern and now post-modern conditions. It will require a deep appreciation of the tradition that emerged from the struggle of Muslims to apply our religion in the world as much as it will require a rededication to the underlying piety that drove that engagement. It will also require the creative imagination illustrated by the many minds that unwittingly collaborated over long centuries to produce The Adventures of Amir Hamza, as well as the creative assimilative genius that produced the distinctive Mughal art form displayed in the Hamzanama.

It is interesting, as Dalrymle points out, that The Adventures of Amir Hamza begins near Bagdad and unfolds in an area encompassing most of the Middle East that has become synonomous with conflict and strife. Bringing about a new day in that region will hinge in large part on how we in the West envision it. Hopefully works like The Adventures of Amir Hamza will help us to view the region and its wonderful people in a more human light.

6. Beyond the Burka, Lorraine Adams essay on the state of Muslim women in western literature is a call for the inclusion of a wider range of voices in literature about Muslim women currently available in the West. Adams points to the highly politicized nature of what gets translated, published, and by implication, effectively marketed. She mentions the case of Hirsi Ali's memoir, Infidel. Because Ali's work, whose truthfulness is dubious, reinforces all of the stereotypes associated with the type of Islam advocated by radical Islamists, today's enemy of choice, it is a best seller and its author fitting for a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute.

Adams then proceeds to mention the likes of Nawal El Saadawi, the longtime Egyptian feminist scholar and activist, whose scholarship, integrity, and career accomplishments dwarfs those of Hirsi Ali, but whose ambivalence towards the American imperial project has relegated her works-those which have been translated into English-to the back shelves of obscure British bookstores.

Adams also demonstrates the power of the template by a brief examination of the work of the Iranian émigré Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran. The success of that work led to a slew of similar works by Iranian women. Collectively, those works serve to reinforce the stereotypical views most Americans have of the Islamic Republic, but do little to add understanding of the highly complex, highly nuanced Iranian social and political systems. They also unwittingly deny space for other Iranian female voices that are telling different types of stories. This is a dangerous trend in light of the fact that the American public will probably soon be called on to accept some form of military action against Iran. In the absence of understanding, blood unfortunately becomes a very powerful argument.

Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of Adams essay, one that is almost universal when Western women write about Muslim societies, is her failure to mention any works by women who readily and proudly identify themselves as practicing Muslims. She does acknowledge that "moderate Muslims, practicing but tolerant; and radical fundamentalists..." exist. However, her overview of the literature being produced by the women of the Muslim world gives no indication of any literary output from this quarter. It would certainly be instructive and enriching to find out what are the factors motivating such women to take the stands that have taken, and what is their view of the social reality some consider so insidious and demeaning to their gender.

Herein is a challenge for practicing Muslim women in the West, many of whom are fluent in both English and one of the major Muslim languages. Through original works and through translation let your stories and the stories of your sisters be known. It is only through the telling of such stories that the fullness, complexity, and richness of the Muslim world will come to be known. Only then will we begin to approach the fulfillment of the vision of Dedi Felman, who Adams quotes as saying, "We are asking people to recognize the Other not for what they want it to be or anticipate it to be, but for what it is." After all is said and done such an attitude is absolutely indispensable for mutual understanding.


Get Quran Education Online

The Quran, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago, mentioned facts only recently discovered or proven by scientists. This proves without doubt that the Quran must be the literal word of God, revealed by Him to the Prophet Muhammad, and that the Quran was not authored by Muhammad or by any other human being. The Quran, the last revealed word of God, is the primary source of every Muslim's faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects which concern human beings: wisdom, doctrine, worship, transactions, law, etc., but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time, it provides guidelines and detailed teachings for a just society, proper human conduct, and an equitable economic system.

The Quran is an amazingly sophisticated manuscript which is the essence of Islam. It preaches monotheism, brotherhood, love for one another and various methods to improve our existence in this world. It explains various facts most clearly and makes comments accordingly. Thus, the holy Quran is an important document that challenges the reader to think, ponder and examine for himself. It has the power to convince, motivate and influence. Thus, Quran education is crucial in the life of all Muslims and needs to be passed on to our children right from an early age. The holy Quran has the remedy to all human afflictions . Quran education guides us in all our activities and helps us associate our entire self with God's name and attributes. With Quranic education we can copiously understand that Islam is both a religion as well as a complete way of life.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Muslim Scholars and Leaders Move Towards The World Peace Religion

A sixty five year old woman named Nancy smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 45 years. Then one day she began to cough up blood and suffer chest pains which were dull, aching and persistent. Her family doctor sent her for chest X-Rays and the radiologist detected a tumor in her right lung. The biopsy showed that it was cancer. Nancy was prepared for surgery. The surgeon came into the room, cut open Nancy's chest, looked at the golf ball sized tumor, and said, "Well, other than this tumor, she looks fine." The surgeon did not cut out the tumor, he just told his assistant to sew her up. Six weeks later Nancy died.

Last Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007, 138 leading Muslim scholars, political and religious leaders from around the world sent an olive branch of peace, a 29 page letter to Pope Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and all Christian leaders worldwide. At the end of the letter the Muslim scholars and leaders refer Pope Benedict XVI to their website, "The Offical Website of A Common Word". The letter can be read and downloaded at the website, along with letters of congratulations from Christian and Jewish scholars and politicians, including Tony Blair.

On the top right of the homepage it says "Link!" If Pope Benedict XVI uses his Holy Mouse to click on the word "Link!" he will find a request to add the link and banner from the Muslim scolars' website to the official website of The Holy See, along with the HTML code for the banner. The present Page Rank of "A Common Word" is zero but with world wide mainstream coverage of the Muslim scholars' letter and religious and educational institutions and individuals world wide now linking in, it will not be long before the Muslim scholars' website surpasses the Vatican's Page Rank of 8. At this point Pope Benedict XVI is sure to issue a Papal Bull directing every Catholic to link to his website. The advertising potential is astronomical.

Last Friday, Oct. 12, 2007, the top Vatican official in charge of Catholic relations with Islam and all other religions, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran told Vatican Radio that he found the letter "very interesting", in part because it was signed by both Shiite and Sunni Muslims and made numerous references to the Old Testament, New Testament and the Koran, which are all followed by Islam. Cardinal Tauran said that he welcomed the fact that the letter was not controversial, argumentative or disputatious. Unfortunately, this is where the Muslim scholars' letter falls on its face and misses a glorious opportunity to heal the rift between Christianity, Islam and Judaism now leading us all into nuclear world war III, the Apocalypse.

The Muslim scholars, political and religious leaders' letter states at the bottom of page 15 and the top of page 16, that if the Muslim and Christian worlds do not now resolve their differences, "The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake." The Muslim scholars' solution for making peace between Christianity, Islam and Judaism is to unite under a common word, "Love", and the two most important commandments in all three religions, "Love God" and "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

The Temple of Love - The World Peace Religion http://www.thetempleoflove.com makes peace among and unites Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Everyone else by tying them together with their common threads and resolving all of their differences once and for all. The glaring problem with the Muslim scholars' letter to the Christian leaders is that it makes no mention of the differences between the religions let alone resolving them. We are talking about the countless commandments in the Bibles for the members of Christianity, Islam and Judaism to kill all of the innocent men, women and children outside of their group because they are all devils.

The Koran reads "Make War on the Christians and Jews and infidels for great eternal rewards." (Sura Chapter 9:5, 29-30, Sura 56). The Christian Bible says that when the Messiah of Islam and Christianity returns, Jesus Christ, he will command his followers and angels to throw all of the non believers into the fire, because they are all devils. (Matt. 13:36-43). Pslam 2 of the Old Testament of Judaism, now followed by Christianity and Islam too says that the Messiah will smash all of the non believers like a potter's vessel with a rod of iron into a million pieces and conquer the world for each religion. Christianity, Islam and Judaism and their Holy Bibles command genocide and they are the root cause of the West's "War on Terror" aka "The War Against the Muslims", the Muslim worldwide Jihad against all non Muslims, and the obstacle to peace in the Middle East, and as long as these religions exist there will never be peace on earth, according to their own God of Mount Sinai in their own Holy bibles. God of Mount Sinai commands that these three religions now be purified down to their magnificent essence in order to save life on earth from extinction and to lead the people of earth to everlasting peace on earth.

The Temple of Love - The World Peace Religion's 10 page website is the part of the three Bibles which your religious leaders will never teach you because their own God's plan for everlating world peace in their own Holy Bibles calls for an end to Christianity, Islam and Judaism and your religious leaders' power and control over you and the vast fortunes they are making off of you.

In the 3 Holy Bibles, God of Mount Sinai aka God the Father, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, Allah, Yehovah, Elohim says through every single Biblical Prophet in the 3 Bibles that the way to everlasting peace on Earth is to purify Christianity, Islam and Judaism down to their essences, belief in God, belief that God of Mount Sinai is that One God, belief that God of Mount Sinai Himself carved His Word, the 10 commandments in stone Himself, and above all for the people to follow and obey God's word, "10ve", the 10 commandments. This new religion is The Temple of Love - The World Peace Religion. According to God of Mount Sinai the three Holy Bibles must now be thrown into the fire, except for the two tablets, before these bibles are leading us all into the fires of Nuclear World War three. According to God of Mount Sinai these three holy bibles are the cancerous tumor about to kill us all, and God says in the Bibles that the tumor must now be cut out and set aside.

God promised that your surgeon, your Messiah would command his angels to do this upon his return. Your religious leaders will never allow it. Now it is up to the congregants of every Synagogue, Church and Mosque to do this to save life on earth from extinction, and change the name of your place of worship today to "The Temple of Love - The World Peace Religion". The alternative is to stay the course, and allow your religious leaders and Holy Bibles to lead you all into extinction in the Apocalypse.

Your Muslim and Christian leaders are all following the book of Revelations, which promises that in nuclear world war three, the apocalypse, the earth and Heaven will be destroyed, and then a new earth and a new Heaven will appear and a new Jerusalem will descend from the sky. The New Testament was written in Greek by Greek authors. What your religious leaders will never tell you is that the Revelations story of Prince Jesus flying down from Heaven on his flying horse to defeat the snake, goat, lion Beast, Satan, is a dead on plagiarism of the Greek Myth of Prince Bellerophon on his flying horse Pegasus slaying the snake, goat, lion Chimera. God in your Holy Bibles said that your bible writers were breaking the third commandment and taking his name in vain to ceate your bibles, by signing their own stories "God". God said, "They have prophesied falsehood and lying divination; they say, 'Says the Lord', when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they wait for the fulfillment of their word!" (Ezekiel 13:6). The prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi were there and saw the bible writers doing this endlessly, and they warned us of the catastrophic consequences now upon us all.

God of Mount Sinai in the three Holy bibles called your bible writers a bunch of ignorant confused drunks who were signing their own stories, "God", and prophesying by Baal, Beelzebub, Satan, (Jeremiah 2:8) and creating for the people a shelter of lies and falsehoods which would cause the people to go and fall backwards and be ensnared and taken and burn in the fire. (Isaiah 28:9-15, Matt. 23).

God promised to send a Messiah, a Messenger, to take great rocks of hail and tremendous windstorms and wash away your Holy Bibles forever, all except for the two tablets, in order to create everlasting peace on earth. The bottom line is that this plan works, and the map of your religions leads to the people of earth soon burning alive in the fires of nuclear world war three, waiting for a Greek cartoon character to come and save them. Save youselves, you have the ability. The way to everlasting peace on earth now is for 200 people to stand up today at the United Nations and agree to stop fighting permanently. It's that simple. Use your own minds now, and change course before we all shortly pass the point of no return. The Muslim scholars and leaders buzzed all around the net without scoring and they are to be thanked and congratulated for bringing us this far in a historic and unprecedented move towards peace, but now let us finally kick the ball into the net. Link exchange requests to the Pope; what's next, spamming Oliver Cromwell?


Building Institutions - A Path To Racial And Social Integration For Muslims In The American Society

Building Institutions - a path to racial and social integration for Muslims in the American Society

Institution - An established organization or corporation (as a bank or university) especially of a public character

Suddenly, in fall of 2005 the Muslim community in the blue color city of Birmingham found itself at odds with its non Muslim neighbors. This came as a big surprise to many, as most of the Muslims living in this city were 2nd or 3rd generation British born and raised. They paid taxes, lived and worked next to there non Muslim neighbors and sent there children to public schools. So why after living in a country and in a community for decades did they find themselves alienated and targeted? One can spend many hours debating over the evidence, but the one fact remains, it happened, and It shouldn't have surprised us at all; as mere residency in a society is not necessarily a sign of Cultural or Social integration. I believe that in order for a sub community to fully integrate itself; it must at least perceive to have a stake in the overall process and the ability to influence it. The creation of local institutions facilitates and helps communities organize in an influential manner. These give the community a sense of ownership and stake, allowing its members to participate and influence the overall agenda. To be effective these institutions need to be diverse and varied; spanning cultural, financial, religious and political boundaries.

For the American Muslim community, the current landscape is fairly bleak. There are very few world class Muslim institutions, and the ones that do exist, provide the most fundamental and rudimentary services to its constituents. The existing infrastructure consists of mostly religious hubs such as Mosques and Islamic schools; these are the first to mushroom in any new community and help regulate the basic needs of its members, e.g. prayers, marriages, religious education, funeral services etc. In all major US metro areas these have flourished and service levels have improved over time.

Over the last decade the Islamic education sector has seen rapid growth, this is largely due to significant demand for quality primary education by mostly professional and affluent Muslim parents. Larger schools, focusing not just on primary but secondary and High School education are also starting to appear at an accelerated pace throughout major metropolitan suburbs. In principal these schools are structured similar to the Catholic school system and focus on teaching standard curriculum with additional focus on Islamic education. The growing economic disparity between the urban lower middle class and there fellow suburban dwelling professionals is alarming, and as a result, the larger more established schools find themselves catering mostly to the affluent Muslims; leaving the urban families with limited options.

Although a few Muslim Universities and Colleges exist, they are still very few and far apart. On this front, some geographic areas have done better than others, for example the Chicagoland community has made progress with the establishment and rapid growth of East West University. An institution started over two decades ago now boasting enrollment of close to 2000 students, mostly non Muslims. Offering Liberal Arts and Engineering curriculum, East West University is an excellent example of a simple idea turning into a local institution, serving not only its original constituents, but a much larger community by evolving into a seamless local institution. Even with these sporadic successes a tremendous amount of work still needs to be done on the education front in other locations and communities.

Living in the United States it is difficult to go to a US city, town or village without running into a Muslim doctor. Associations such as AAPNA and others boast thousands of members, all Muslim doctors. Even with these large numbers, it is hard to find a single reputable large medical institution started or run by members of the Muslim medical community. This situation is counter intuitive; with so many Muslim doctors shouldn't we have an abundance of institutions? I believe in this scenario the dilemma exists due to the lack of management expertise amongst Muslim doctors. Doctors are arguably the most affluent Muslim community in the US and have the opportunity to take a leadership role in the institution building process. So far they have dropped the ball on this front. Organizations such as AAPNA, with an established member community and access to funds should prioritize efforts to help identify and support candidates who can be developed into business leaders via education and training.

For any community to flourish the availability of capital for consumer and commercial purposes is paramount; for this reason alone the lack of Islamic financial institutions in the US is of significant concern; having institutions that serve the special needs of the Muslim community by providing Shariah compliant financial products and offerings is a necessary step forward. Activities such as home buying and business investments increase an individual's stake in the community, and this impact is almost more important than all others; this in my opinion is the seed that allows individuals to take an interest in there surrounding environment and participate in the community at a heightened level. Development of Islamic financial institutions would allow Muslims in America to be on a path of integration and participation in the American society. A tremendous amount of progress has taken place in the Islamic finance arena and countries such as Malaysia, Bahrain, U.A.E and Pakistan are at the forefront of this effort.

It is estimated that there are between 4-7 Million Muslims living in the United States (depending on whose numbers you believe), but unfortunately with the exception of a few first efforts, Islamic finance is still in its infancy. In order to avoid paying interest many successful Muslim families don't participate in homeownership and other interest related activities. The ones that forgo this hesitancy usually do so with feelings of guilt. Over the last five years Guidance Financial has started offering home mortgage products to the US Muslim community. The effort has been met with a fair amount of success and is a good start, but consumers will benefit from additional players entering the market.

Unfortunately, on the commercial front, Shariah compliant lending institutions are no where to be found. There are some local institutions such as Devon Bank in Chicago and University Bank in Michigan that are starting to dabble with commercial lending, but being small community banks they are limited in there resources. Additionally, the absence of a Secondary market to resell these loans as Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) threatens to choke any growth in this effort. The lack of a developed Islamic secondary market forces many institutions to carry the loans for the duration of the term, which creates a liquidity problem. Even though some examples exist of portfolio sales to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (Government funded Secondary markets for conventional/interest baring loans), the development and creation of a more permanent secondary market for Islamic/Shariah compliant loans is essential for any future growth in the US. This one activity alone could breathe new life into the Islamic financial markets and would most likely embolden other institutions to accelerate product development efforts.

Islamic finance is currently estimated to be a $400 Billion business worldwide, and according to the UK-based Islamic Finance Information Service $16.9 billion in Islamic bonds (Sukuks), were issued in the first 10 months of 2006 - 43 percent more than all Islamic bonds issued in 2005. The success of Shariah compliant financing instruments in the UK serves to strengthen and validate the market worldwide. For the US market the creation of additional institutions and products is a necessity, Credit Cards, Bonds (Sukuks) Auto financing, equipment and inventory financing and construction loans are some of the areas that need development and investment.

Middle East based Investment banks and Private Equity companies have also started to open offices in the US, Arcapita (owners of Church's Chicken and Caribou coffee chains), Kingdom Holdings and Unicorn Investment Bank are examples of such companies. Some of these institutions especially Kingdom Holdings has been involved in taking positions and doing deals for over 10 years, but these overseas companies do little to engage the local communities in the US and therefore tend to have very little impact on the local landscape. Any future dialogue leading to collaboration at the local level could benefit both sides.

As the above mentioned examples illustrate, some preliminary work is being done to build institutions by the Muslim community, but unless the urgency is felt on a broader scale, these efforts will continue to be "test cases" and "one off" scenarios. The diverse Muslim community in the US is comprised of entrepreneurs from all over the world and many of the community members are actively involved via there jobs in helping others build and run the same kind of institutions. There is certainly no lack of expertise; but I believe a lack of inspiration and guidance; with community support and guidance the Muslim intellectuals and entrepreneurs could certainly create world class institutions, but only if they have the courage to dare.

That is why the Muslim community in the U.S must learn to recognize there superstars and engage actively and collectively to develop them into leaders. As the events in Birmingham, England indicate, it is paramount for the Muslim community in the US to avoid a similar fate, if they succeed, they will redefine there role in history and if they fail, history will surely define them.

As we sail thru the year 2007 it is encouraging to see sparks of innovation and leadership all over the country, and there is some hope for the future, but it is a bit indulgent for the Muslim Americans to believe that there future generations will be able to fulfill their dreams. I fear that if Muslim professionals don't set examples now, and fail to create leadership icons today, they will also fail to inspire the future generations

Friday, October 15, 2010

Islamic Books on Parenting

First time parents in general have a hard time figuring out a number of things where their children are concerned. Fears about raising them properly in accordance to Islamic teachings, teaching them morals and values, educating them about kindness towards others and other common aspects of Islam can be quite intense for a number of parents. In the older times when joint family systems were prevalent in the Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, these fears were quelled by the advice and help of the elders of the family, who were always around to help out and aid the new parents. Today with independent families and working mothers, it has become essential to get aid from the useful Islamic books available about parenting techniques to raise a healthy and happy little Muslim.

Many great scholars have imparted useful parenting tips and common practices with the help of informative Islamic books which help new parents to learn about various aspects of child rearing in light f Shari'ah and Sunnah. A few of the prevailing Islamic books include:

Bringing up Children in Islam: Written by Shaykh Abdullah Naasih Ulwaan and published by Darul Ishaat, this is one of the popular Islamic books with informative and helpful ways to raising good Muslim children. It is an adaptation of the popular Arabic book "Tarbiyat al-awlad fi al-Islam" and covers in depth almost all facets of the subject in a simple and concise way.

Raising Children in the Light of the Qur'aan & Sunnah: By the author Abdus-Salaam bin Abdillaah As - Sulaymaan, this is one the best Islamic books, which contain a wealth of information about bringing up your child according to the teachings of Islam. This book discusses parenting ways from the time a baby is born up to the adolescent ages. Written in a simple and easy to understand way, this book presents evidence from the Quran and Sunnah about the best child rearing techniques in Islam.

The Greatest Gift: A Guide to Parenting: For Muslims living in the Western society and facing issues about raising their children in light of Islam in circumstances which are by far the most appropriate, this is another one of the great Islamic books which helps the parents to understand the issues they are facing in a complete way. The author Muhammad Abdul Bari tries to help the parents experiencing desperation in raising good Muslims in this detailed book.

These are just a few of the Islamic books which are being used by Muslim parents all over the world to help raise better Muslims which become an essential part of the Islamic community.

Sohail Khan works for Islamic Impressions which specializes in retail and wholesale products for the Islamic market and stocks a wide range of Islamic books on all subjects to buy online or in our stores in London, Birmingham, Denmark and Trinidad.


Islamic Gifts For Graduation

The end of the month of May marks the beginning of a new era of their lives for thousands of students graduating from schools and universities. Graduates of high schools further pursue their dream educations at the universities, whereas the college graduates step out in the real world and follow their careers of choice. Students feel high levels of excitement, achievement as well as apprehensions about the phase of life they are about to embark on, but at the same time, they want to celebrate this momentous occasion of their lives with their families and friends.

Proud parents throw grand graduation parties for their children which allow all their friends and relatives to give nice and useful Islamic gifts to the new graduates. These Islamic gifts are not only thoughtful gestures from the giver, but also hold a special place in the receiver's heart as they mark the start of a new phase of their life.

It is vital on the gift givers part to select Islamic gifts for the new graduate which are not only caring but can also be a significant part of their upcoming life. Certain Islamic gifts which make great graduation presents include Islamic books and CD's, which teach the youngsters free from the heavy school work loads about the fundamental principles of Islam, or give them in depth knowledge about certain Islamic subject matters.

A nicely bound Quran or their digital counterparts can also make suitable Islamic gifts for graduations, as they are considered to bring blessing to the receiver in addition to providing them their own personal copy of the Holy book. With technology advancements, most people opt to go for a digital version of the Quran, which are available in a variety of price ranges, as they can be conveniently recited at any time.

Graduation Islamic gifts can also comprise of personalized plaques and plates with Quranic verses inscribed on them, Islamic jewelery articles, blankets and throws for the graduates with a Holy emblem or names embroidered on them, leather portfolios and daily planners to assist in their upcoming careers, particularly for those graduates moving on to the professional phase of their lives.

So it is important to take time out to buy something which is considerate and useful for the new graduate before heading out to the next graduation party. These Islamic gifts will not only be special to them, but the effort you put into buying something will be highly appreciated by the receiver!

Sohail Khan works for Islamic Impressions which specializes in retail and wholesale products for the Islamic market and stocks a wide range of ideal Islamic gifts to buy online or in our stores in London, Birmingham, Denmark and Trinidad.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comparative Analysis of Education and Training in the East and the West - A Critical Review

Since December 2005, I have been seeking a suitable solution for various differences between the upbringing of the generation in Europe and in the East. Although I spent 5 years in Germany - A major country of Europe - but the experiences of the past two year somehow opened my eyes and washed my brain from my dusty and unclear images of the European social system, which I will explain here. In fact the schooling and educational training is the key factor for the completely difference in livings to that seen in the East.. The base is the start-up or foundational education system in the schools.

Specifically speaking, the subcontinent, the heart of tradition and cultures is a mixture of various kinds of personal values and traits found in one's character! These are somehow basic instinct of any human being in any part of the world. Such as human feelings, passions, emotions etc. these can not be refined and polished. Now apart from these basic heredity institutions there exist other values which decide difference between us and a European. The difference can be integrated in clear structure if the system of the two is quite clearly understood!

The pupil in school have been brought up in an education system with scenarios of culture, half-history, geography, science and most of the part hinges upon religious bondage and social ethics. Religious and ethical limits sanction utmost in society and in family. A person is free to think, utilize his capabilities in some aspects of life but boundary conditions exit too. It can be pro and contra for the generation there! Text syllabus of The East - Subcontinent -ranges all the basic international standards censored with some "extras" of life. What is needed there is an introduction of basic foreign languages at the school levels. For many years English has been the only foreign language taught in the schools but considering a great demand of other language in future, it would be highly preferred if they start to become thoughtfulness to fringing a good broad spectrum of world's famous languages into the syllabi.

Generally, languages are chosen as English, Urdu; Arabic, Persian...no other major language which one critically analyse as a major failure in the schools. Optional and compulsory subjects are somehow chosen in "a ladder-way"... It means that if the elder member of the family has become a Medical doctor, the younger will also choose the same subjects regardless of his own mental aptitude and inclination, may be he or she is a good teacher or journalist. It is somehow a wrong trend of development as contracted in Germany where students are given opportunities in order to flourish their academic peaks and then they decide somehow to find the right profession. Compulsory subjects are basic sciences, mathematics, geography of the land and Islamic studies. So the concepts of refined on the principles of Islam

Now let us have a glance at the German system of schooling. Scientifically known that a general "start-up" of a child's character shaping start from the mothers bally. The hierarchal characteristics from parents play a vital role. When he is in the school, he is given - better to say - he learns a lot about his surroundings. In Germany, what one observes is a good educational scenario which is often seen in all school which ranges from the compulsory and optional subjects, language, technological etc...Religion and ethics are treated somehow with equal importance. What fails here is, somehow, the barrier between mingled sexes, illustration of sexual relations. The training in the schools is somehow critical view to comment.

The government proclaim it to be a step to so-called control the population and many diseases. May be its delicate to reveal such remakes but look at the growing statistics of separation and family matters although they have a good general education. The sense to focus here is that their brain is shaped in such a way that what they learn besides good worldly life is only stress free life, holidays, freedom of mind, somehow a little respect towards their parents who lives independent life in separate homes. No one "disturbs" each other or up to a certain point which is to not bother them... but on the other side a good academic life is seen in youngsters and elders. The system somehow, shapes them and nourish inevitably in such a life style independent of being Muslim of Pakistan or Iran, or Buddhist of China...build then into a complete opposite person to that brought up in the East mainly in Pakistan or Arabian lands.

In European schooling system, what we observe here is the fact that, first, there is freedom of doing everything, anytime! You can just suggest someone some thing but can not order. It is seen also in the articles of German laws which give priority to human freedom! Consequently it generates first a scene of independence which up to a certain limit, admirable and desirable. Because this independence leads one to stand up on his own feet when he is left alone, it is helping to shapes his personality by his own hands. But generally, neutral observation shows that most of the cases are adverse effects. The educational materials are based on more or less no religious lessons and if yes, the interpretation has been altered such that it only fits them. Viewing this part of the world through a wide vision glass, one can image a good materialistic growth, technological apex, fast media and communication, and robotic life but sorrowfully saying, individual personalities are declining.

On one side the official syllabus and taught text books are full of the knowledge improvement like geography, science, technology, human rights but on the other side they cross the limits such as the open education in schools about Sex and methods which eventually, more or less, lead youngsters losing their virginity; no care of dresses or school uniform which symbolizes a well-shaping, discipline and "to follow" nature of a child; in deed respect to others. One can conclude this is a natural human instinct which people have modified now days into education... one does not need any special teachings for "milli-meter jobs" and stuff like that.

Result! where on the one hand one leads a somehow educationally balanced personality but somehow on the other hand, critically speaking, personal social life are crushed and going to be ruined without any notice. The life sketches as into the children of an unmarried mother living with their step father's family. Marriage also seems to be a game of time! Because, many school of thoughts proclaim it as bondage to develop child's personality. Luckily, there are some associations of Christian and Muslim too and other religions which show time to time programs in order to revive the matrimonial importance in the young generation. But unfortunately the laws bound the hands of such association to implement the God given doctrines. There are some courses too, to track the disoriented couples who spend vain and reward-less-period years before even thinking to buy the ring-of-marriage. Anyway all depends on the basic foundational education of the youngsters.

We blame each others on the bases of one's so-called faith. But if one could analyse with one and only a neutral view point to single out those factors which perturb the association or a relation, one would easily come to a conclusion that true Islamic regimes, with its hidden wisdom, beat and synchronize the heart of the people to compare them with other pattern of lives. Before becoming emotional and touching the feelings, just factor out the reality in nature around you!

It is observed that the tendency of a human personality develops according to the surroundings. Well! The point is to convey is the hierarchal influence of social values which is significantly added by the parental authority in bringing up the children. To a major extent the schools sharpen and shape the character of a child in Germany. Recommendation should be given "with compulsion" that everyone should get some special subjects with supporting religious reforms for the child. At the end one would finish by feeling somehow a need of Islamic schools in Germany for the brought up of Muslim children or any others who want to know the truth of/in Islam in Germany. It is not because of differentiation or integration but as to highlight the matter which is only the approach to teach them the real values by which Islam flourished in its peak in the past 1400 A.H. year ago!!

To know different cultures, learn other languages, discuss closely related religions, life styles and English, Arabic calligraphy are some of the extra curricular activities which are a significant part of his life.


The Hope of Children of Pakistan

Muhammad Ali Jinnah twice said on different places that our children are the hope of Pakistan and they must acquire higher education. Although, it is our prior competency to bring and develop various resources to enhance our children to get education. Civilian, public, national and constitutional acquaintance can only be getting if we are educated and these acquaintances are the main foundation of children to stabilize and play effective role in their country. Education is a matter of life and death for our country.

We all analyze that Pakistan cannot achieve betterment without arouse curiosity any momentous ways in the era of education. Education bestows an essential tool for boosting to a country because education lies on a beneath foundation. Conceiving as the beginning of Pakistan education is profoundly behindhand and forsaken domain. The circumstances did not bring in excelling unconcerned of obtain scope to educate public. Alike there are large number of children's in Pakistan who did not obtain primary education and thus, low level literacy rate increase.

As far as Pakistan, by 2008 according to the figures specified by the government the literacy quota was 56.20% approximately. From 1998 to the date twice primary schools constructed, but on the other hand high average of population growths restrict the advancement in education sector. There is also a dilemma to a low participation of millions of children in the peer group 6-14 years not attending schools. Small towns do not have facilities of pioneer schooling. Also, some other disadvantages include defective school foundations, big-break of teachers in remote rural and hilly areas, and in-sufficient allotment of possessions on education as per the budget. The costs of passage, books and uniforms could be outside limits for poor children's.

As I went to Pakistan for a short while ago, I visited some towns and I saw children's sitting in an open area, a teacher practicing the lesson. I think at a same time that these children's have enough enthusiasm to learn and gain Education. That is why they are sitting and learning in such a condition. They do not care the need of place like school, or chairs, desks, classrooms etc. They are just gaining the knowledge by any source that could be reached them. So, as I perplexed in this position, a child who is usually read to, or who frequently observes children's reading and writing and a child who has inhibited acknowledgment to reading and writing will have an ideal assumptions. Each of these circumstances, however, provides some of the background that we should examine and devote for betterment towards the importance of education, re-polishing schooling arrangements and big-break of teachers.

As an exemplary case, Pakistani Rupees 1000 has no worth when we enter KFC or Mc Donald's but when we are going to buy a book of RS/- 100, it has a worth. In same case, have you ever seen the sign board outside the libraries that House Full but you have experience these things in cinema halls and cricket stadiums. Your answer will be yes. If we observe these examples are viewed by any individual thought or you think its cumulated thoughts. Either It's a problem of entire society in general as well as it's a problem of whole nation.

Literacy rates are essential part of a country's comprehensive educational development. When convincing of the governmental interests and strategies, it clearly shows that we have to work out to expand and prosper our education sector. As we observe that Pakistan has the beneath literacy rates but still we are not hopeless to polish the structure of education. Even though our Government efforts for boosting and reforming education for all.

Low literacy levels in Pakistan can be associates to various aspects, the distinctive level of inadequacy, beggary and hardship being a dominant origin. Besides the World Bank survey, moreover one-third of the country is appraised to be living less than the hand-to-mouth and subsistence level. Primary school is without fees in government schools; but on the other hand the costs of passage, books and uniforms could be outside limits for poor children's. Furthermore, there aren't sufficient classrooms to become suitable for all and if there are classrooms, their structure and foundation are dusty and poor.

ISLAM also confesses us about Education and its significance. A civilized person considers the real ambition of life. Our Prophet Hazrat Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him told us that obtaining knowledge was a responsibility located on each Muslim. Pakistan is a Muslim country. We all in charge of our ethical values and standardize path to give it to today's youth. Also, the role of the scholars, instructor, lecturer and teachers plays an important role in our life. They imbedded and inculcated the seed of knowledge in us. The Prophet said "Seek knowledge even if you have to go as far as China".

Muhammad Ali Jinnah said "when you have got that light of knowledge by education and when you have made yourselves strong economically and industrially. Then you have to prepared yourselves for your defense against external aggression and to maintain internal security."

This is the golden age that we strongly augment the feature of education. We assure that our educational academics attain these aspirations, and put our children education fundamental. Our children are dynamic and persuasive and they can put into use to seek from basic to higher education.

Education is the basic ground step towards the improvement of any civilization. It's our duty to guide our children in selecting the right path. It's our obligation to make use of their potentials and endeavors precisely. So they can call the real hope of Pakistan.

Today our children need backbone, boldness and courage. Our mainly blessings are children's who are the diamonds of Pakistan. Our children are the insight of our future. It is duty of parents, teachers and everyone to advise the lesson of knowledge and education in today's children.

We should bring awareness in the children specially the young youth through their extra abilities and talent. Our young youth who are the hopes of tomorrow's Pakistan. They must fully well equip themselves by higher education and academic trainings. Any nation can consequently be honorable and respectable of its entity until its children and young youth onward with us at various parts and entries of life.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why an Islamic Shop is Ideal For Buying Educational Toys

Being a Muslim parent, I realize the importance of the selection of products for your child. From the very beginning, it is vital to purchase products that are suitable for a Muslim, as early childhood development has an impact on the personality of your child. Toys are an important part of your child's growth and development, in particular for teaching and stimulating the child's cognitive and linguistic skills. An Islamic shop can cater to the needs of your child's growth and development as there are numerous toys available which aid the parents and other care givers in providing the child the proper reinforcement which helps in developing his skills to their optimum level.

Today as the awareness is increasing in parents about the positive results of these toys and tools, there are more toy makers which are coming up with creative and innovative educational toys for children. In particular these trends can be seen in religiously active sectors of the society which want to coach and groom their child according to the teachings of their religion. An Islamic shop is the best place to find educational toys that not only entertain but also help your child learn about the basics of the religion from very early childhood.

Teaching your child can be turned into a fun and interactive experience by a series of DVD's titled "Adam's World", which features a small Muslim puppet going through the day to day routines of life and learning about the fundamentals of Islam. This series of movies can be attained from your local Islamic shop. Other such movies are also available that can teach your child about the different aspects of Islam in a fun narrative and interactive way.

For older children, there are slightly more complex educational toys available at your local Islamic shop. These include Islamic computers, which teach the children how to read and recite the Quran with proper Arabic accent and also have various other teaching software's that teach and quiz your child about the teachings of Islam. There are also certain Hadith games available which allow the children to play together with friends and take challenges. The wooden puzzles that teach Arabic alphabets and small Arabic words to young children are also very popular amongst the Muslim parents and can be easily purchased at any Islamic shop.

So then why go to a regular toy shop when the best educational toys are available at an Islamic shop!

Sohail Khan works for Islamic Impressions, which started as a traditional Islamic shop specialising in retail and wholesale products for the Islamic market, now with branches in London, Birmingham, Denmark and Trinidad.