Tuesday 29 December 2009

Combating Negative Thinking

The excellent Productive Muslim.com site has an article on combating negative thinking with a Islamic slant:

"To be a productive, dynamic muslim,it is extremely important that we inculcate a mindset of positivity. A mindset of positivity leads to proactivity and eventually leads to creating a productive life. If the mindset of positivity is missing, and we are negative and self loathing, and have no hope, do you ever think we would have the enthusiasm to do things and be productive?

One of the greatest secrets to being a productive person is letting go your negative self-talk and switching to positivity. Behind that door of negativity, there is a brighter, happier, productive life waiting for you."

You can read the full post here.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Where is the Moderate Coverage?"

Lena Hassan writing for the Londron Free Press asks "Where is the moderate coverage?":

"There's the persistent and popular debate on the hijab and Muslim women in general. There are wars waged or threatened in Muslim countries such as Iraq and Iran and, most importantly, there are stories reporting atrocities committed by nominal Muslims.

When this last happens, Muslims, like everyone else, cry for the victims, feel anger toward the ones who committed the act and pray for justice to be served.

The voice of opposition to extremism is a roar within the Muslim community yet it's oddly translated to a whisper by the media.

We don't follow a religion that says it's OK to kill or commit suicide. We don't follow a religion that tells us to hate Christians and Jews. We don't follow a religion that is evil. We are not evil and should not be told to apologize for something we didn't do.

If you're not reading the Taipei Times regularly you may have missed an article reporting on imams denouncing bombing attacks.

If you're not watching New York's 24-hour newscast, you may not know that a coalition of more than 200 imams has formed to confront the dangers of extremism

You can read the full article here.

Active Muslimah’s: Faila Pasic-Bisic

I came across two posts written about sister Faila Pasic-Bisic at the Bosnian Hijab blog (here and here) where she is described as:

"Muslim care worker, daughter of Bosnian parents...born in Slovenia. For the last ten years, she has been travelling around the world, promoting tolerance and compassion, protection of the environment, coexistence of all religions, nations cultures and social others. She is also initiator of numerouos humanitarian aid projects, as well as activities promoting intercultural dialogue and understanding. She is also doing voluntary service in Bosnian, Kosovan, African, palestinian refugee camps. She has earned recognition from various social, healthcare, political personages. She has been awarded the best Volonteer 2006, Humanist of the year 2007, Face of the European year of equal opportunities for all 2007, and nominated for Slovenian women of the year 2008 and Young European 2008."

I thought this young woman was a wonderful role-model for young (and older) sisters to learn from and be indpired by.

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Wednesday 16 December 2009

Open Society Institute Report on Muslims in Europe

The Times (13 December 2009) carries an article highlighting the findings of a new report, carried out by the Open Society Institute, that finds that Muslim's in Britain are the most patriotic in Europe:

"The report, funded by George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, found that on average 78% of Muslims identified themselves as British, although this dropped by six points in east London.

This compares with 49% of Muslims who consider themselves French and just 23% who feel German.

France prides itself on its secular notion of citizenship and has banned Muslim pupils from wearing the hijab, or headscarf, in classrooms. Yet the study, by the Open Society Institute, found only 41% of Muslims in Paris see themselves as French.

The survey found that levels of patriotism are much higher among second-generation Muslims. In Leicester, 72% of Muslims born abroad said they felt British; this figure jumped to 94% among UK-born Muslims.

Experts believe that Muslims in Germany may feel less patriotic because they have only been allowed citizenship since the 1990s. France’s divisive history with its colonies, such as Algeria, could explain its lower levels of patriotism.

The report also discovered that 55% of Muslims across the EU believe that religious and racial discrimination have risen in the past five years"

Read the full article here and the original report entitled "Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities" here.

Masjid Near Ground Zero

The New York Times reports on the efforts of a group of Muslims in New York to buy the Burlington Coat Factory which was damaged by wreckage from the World Trade Centreon 9/11. The building is close to the ground zero site and this seesm to have encouraged the group to consider it as a site for their masjid:

"The location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July. A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”

“We want to push back against the extremists,” added Imam Feisal, 61

But though the imam is adamant about what his intentions for the site are, there is anxiety among those involved or familiar with the project that it could very well become a target for anti-Muslim attacks.

Joan Brown Campbell, director of the department of religion at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York and former general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ U.S.A., who is a supporter of Imam Feisal, acknowledged the possibility of a backlash from those opposed to a Muslim presence at ground zero.

But, she added: “Building so close is owning the tragedy. It’s a way of saying: ‘This is something done by people who call themselves Muslims. We want to be here to repair the breach, as the Bible says.’ ”

With 50,000 square feet of air rights, Imam Feisal said, the location, with enough financing, could support an ambitious project of $150 million, akin to the Chautauqua Institution, the 92 Street Y or the Jewish Community Center.

Joy Levitt, executive director of the Jewish Community Center, said the group would be proud to be a model for Imam Feisal at ground zero. “For the J.C.C. to have partners in the Muslim community that share our vision of pluralism and tolerance would be great,” she said."

You can read the full article and view a slide show here.

Thursday 10 December 2009

CLG Reports: Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities

Communities and Local Government have issued a series of reports on British Muslims as part of the Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities research project. Communities and Local Government commissioned the Change Institute in 2008 to carry out the research which was done through collation of data from the 2001 Census, surveys, and through a number of focus groups and interviews with community members.

The research provides an insight into thirteen of the most significant Muslim ethnic diaspora communities in England with seperate reports on Somali, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Algerian, Moroccan, Afghan, Nigerian, Indian, Saudi Arabian, Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot, Egyptian, Irani and Iraqi communities in Britain. The reports include information on the context for migration, what is known about demographics, the socio economic status of communities, ethnic and religious identities, young people and intergenerational issues, nature and type of civil society development.

You can access the full list of reports here.

Praise for the Islamic Bank of Britain

Yahoo Money carries an interesting article by By John Fitzsimons which argued that shariah-compliant savings accounts such as those offered by the Islamic Bank of Britain are amongst the best deals around:

"While there are a stack of two-year bonds paying 4.25% AER, from providers as diverse as SAGA, the Post Office and the AA, you simply will not be able to get the same rate as that on offer from the Islamic Bank of Britain.

However, there is one crucial difference with the Islamic Bank of Britain's Fixed Term Deposit Account. The bank monitors how your funds are doing compared to the target profit rate on a daily basis to keep abreast of how likely they are to hit the required rate.

And if at any time they believe that market volatility is likely to hit your return, they will inform you immediately. You then have the choice to close the account, or accept a lower rate of profit. All of the profit achieved up to this point by your funds is protected by the bank, as is the initial sum you deposit."

You can read the full article here

Abaya Experiences

AltMuslimah carries an article by Sister Mariam Khan about why she wears an abaya:

"The decision to wear an abaya has, however, set off different alarms. It has actually been somewhat of a wake-up call. It's the realization that a woman can look simple yet elegant at the same time, discreet yet beautiful. Most importantly though, it's knowing that the choice to wear an abaya is solely to gain the pleasure of Allah, and that is what makes wearing it an act of worship. Hence, the abaya is a form of submission, not to our husbands nor to our parents, but to Allah alone.

After researching the issue and reflecting upon the evidences behind it, I learned the abaya is a source of freedom, rather than oppression. Freedom from having to keep up with annual trends and fashions. Freedom from the "shop-aholic" syndrome many women claim to suffer from. Freedom from standing in front of a closet filled with clothes, yet clueless as to what to wear. On the contrary, I experienced freedom of movement with the abaya. The freedom to walk about freely without attracting negative attention from men. The freedom of being a mere object of man’s desires."

You can read the full article here.

Hijab-Wearing Basketball Star

The AlArabiya news channel's website carries an article about Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a student at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Masachusettes who has has ben making waves on the basketball court:

"For Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, who is on her way to becoming the first player in Massachusetts state history--male or female--to score 3,000 points, wearing the hijab was not an option but she was determined not to let it be an obstacle either.

Bilqis said it was not easy and she frequently turned heads as people taunted her about the "tablecloth" on her head or for being a "terrorist."

"Sometimes they yell out, 'Terrorist!'" one of Bilqis' teammates told the Boston Globe. "She gets mad, but she doesn't lash out. I don't know how she handles it. She just takes it."

Things changed for the honor student when she stunned critics and proved to be an exceptional player with her major skills on the court. Bilqis is now expected to become the first Muslim player in NCAA Division I history."

You can read the full article here.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

1000 Good Deeds

1000 Good Deeds is the website of the 1000 Good Deeds campaign which describes it's purpose as being to implement 1000 good deeds and assist others in doing the same by -

  • introducing good deeds during the working week,
  • highlight their benefits and
  • outline action plans on how to perform the good deed.

The site aims to be interactive and encourages people to get involved by sharing experiences and ideas and practising the good deed of the day.

You can go here to get involved.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Positive Muslimah: Zohra Sarwari

I came across Sister Zohra Sarwari's website via Muslimness and was impressed by the way she makes Islam and Allah (SWT) central to her coaching work.

Her site describes her as an established author, coach, entrepreneur and international speaker.

You can find her video's on her Youtube page here including this one:

You can also find some of her article here.

Friday 27 November 2009

Eid al-Adha 2009: Eid in Charlotte

The Charlotte Observer (27 November 2009) has a gallery of pictures of the Eid prayers that took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA yesterday:

You can view the resy of the pictures here.

Eid al-Adha 2009: Guardian Gallery

The Guardian carries an photo gallery entitled "Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al-Adha":

Palestinian girl dressed in costume stands on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem after prayers.

Palestinian children ride a ferris wheel at an amusement park at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut.

Muslims pray during Eid al-Adha celebrations in Wuzhong in China's Ningxia autonomous region.

Traditional palace guards of the Emir of Kano in Nigeria ride horses after prayers to mark the first day of Eid al-Adha.

You can see the full gallery here.

Happy Eid al-Adha 2009!

Taqabbala Allahu minna wa minkum
May Allah accept it from you and us

Thursday 26 November 2009

Hajj 2009: Gulf News Gallery

Gulfnews.com has a gallery of photo's from this years hajj:

You can see the full gallery here. Thank's to Crafty Muslimah for the link.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Hajj 2009: Sister Fatima Barkatulla's Experience

Sister Fatima Barkatulla (who also writes for Sisters magazine) has written a beautiful article in the Times (20 November 2009) about her journey to hajj, comparing her experiences to those of El-Hajj Malik al-Shabbaz in his biography.

"Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik! Here I am O God, here I am at Your service! Here I am, You have no partners, here I am!” millions chant in unison. As we taxi down the long, winding highways that meet at the foot of the Sacred Mosque, we crane our necks to catch a glimpse of the Kaaba. It slides into view and our eyes stream with tears. We have come home. Somehow our natural human instincts are bound to this once barren plot of earth an ocean away, where Abraham built the Kaaba — the first place built for the worship of the Creator alone.

Elderly and destitute people, having saved up for haj all their lives, have travelled here from every corner of the Earth. They sit cross-legged; gazing at the Kaaba or napping in between prayer times; as comfortable as if the palace-like building around them, with its gleaming marble floors and ornate lanterns, is their birthright. It is as much theirs as it is the next man’s. No need for intermediaries here, for you are a guest of God. You could have come from a mansion in Mayfair or a Mumbai slum and you would be standing shoulder to shoulder in prayer, one direction, one dress, one human family: all Children of Adam, all equal in the sight of the One God."

You can read the full article here.

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Zain Bhika's Labbaik Nasheed Video

Zain Bhikha's nasheeds are a favourite in my house, especially easy for my children to follow and very pleasant to listen to. I came across this one which I thought was particularly apt for the present time:

Organised Chaos: Handling 2.5 Million Pilgrims

The Independent (23 November 2009) has an article on the Saudi's organisation during hajj:

"He said the Saudi management has improved year by year, and newly rebuilt hajj terminal arrival facilities have vastly alleviated past hassles.

"This is much better than before," when tens of thousands of people would be pushing and shoving in passport and luggage queues.

It is chaos, but altogether pretty efficient, says French consul Christian Nakhle, who has to care for as many as 30,000 pilgrims coming from France.

"We all work 24 hours a day, seven days a week for several weeks," he said.

It is a huge mixing bowl of ethnicities and germs. But Srouji said that of the 5,000 people a day who pass by his camera alone - there are 11 other such stations - so far he has picked up only one person with a feverish temperature.

This year, he has three French-speaking doctors on call full-time, three dedicated motorcycle drivers to get documents and other supplies through impenetrable Mecca traffic, and roll-up mattresses for staff inside Mecca who follow the French hajj groups around full time, but sometimes cannot get back to their hotels.

The motorcycles are crucial, he said. A year ago, a French pilgrim appeared to be having a heart attack. They had to load the man on the back of a motorcycle to get him through the traffic to where a car could take him to hospital."

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Interactive Guide to Hajj

The Guardian has an interactive guide to hajj which takes you through the days of hajj and the rituals involved.

You can access it here.

Muslim pilgrims sit on Jabal an-Noor (the Mountain of Light) in Mecca before the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage, on 23 November 2009. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images.

500 Most Influential Muslims of 2009

The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding based at Georgetown University have just released their publication "The 500 Most Influential
Muslims 2009".

The list was edited by Professor John L. Esposito and Professor Ibrahim Kalin and is an interesting mix of religious, political, humanitarian and royal figures. I don't agree with every entry on the list but it was good to see women on the list (although I am not sure I agree that they should have a seperate section). The document certainly highlights the diversity of the Muslim ummah (community) in any case.

To view the list, click here (PDF)

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Sunday 22 November 2009

Muslims in England.com

I came across the Muslims in England website through Muslimness and found it an engaging mix of articles, interview, inspiration and knowledge with a positive angle:

"We may have names similar to Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza, but our views differ wildly. And it is for these reasons that this website has been created, we aim to show the diversity in the Muslim community. We are a group of Muslims who live in England, from dfferent walks of life. Read how normal Muslims in England live, and finally have the chance to make your own conclusions instead of accepting information from biased media sources."

Recent articles include "Make a change in the community you live in!" and "Effective change does not have to be time-consuming!"

Saturday 21 November 2009

Hajj 2009:

The Times (20 November 2009) has an article on the rituals of hajj:

A global community living out their faith, they represent a tremendous diversity of languages and cultures, social classes and professions: Nigerians and Egyptians, Saudi Arabians and Iranians, Americans and Europeans, Turks, Pakistanis and Indonesians; monarchs, presidents and prime ministers, doctors, lawyers, and engineers; corporate leaders and workers.

Whatever their backgrounds and class, all who participate in the pilgrimage wear simple garments, two seamless white cloths for men and an outfit that entirely covers the body, except face and hands, for women. These coverings symbolise purity as well as the unity and equality of all believers, an equality that transcends class, wealth, privilege, power, nationality, race and colour.

Those who have made the haj describe the incredible experience of two million pilgrims praying together as equals, entering into the divine presence, connecting them to something greater than themselves. Many see this as a symbolic experience preparing them for death, when all humans will eventually come together to meet their creator on the Day of Judgment.

The haj had a transforming effect on the black American activist Malcolm X, whose time on pilgrimage led to a spiritual transformation and a new understanding of human brotherhood. As he explains: “There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colours, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and nonwhite.”

Read the full article here.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the Rise of Islamophobia

The Independent carries a column by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Monday, 9 November 2009), a woman that whose views on hijab often leave me rather cheesed off (1, 2, 3) and most of whose opinions seem to be the exact opposite of mine. But this time even she seems to have gotten fed up with the level of Islam- and Muslim-bashing meted out by both the right and left-wing:

"I can now better imagine the national mood that led to the internment of the Japanese in the US in 1942, and in both wars to the rounding up of "enemy aliens" in the UK, many of whom were kept in camps on the Isle of Man and were made to suffer for being who they were ethnically and for no other reason. The former Labour minister, Kim Howells, set out his chilling plans this week on how best, or at least better, to confront Islamist terrorism in the UK. Bring back our boys from Afghanistan, a graveyard that swallows all outsiders. Use the resources, men and might of this nation to increase the pressure on British Muslims, watch them, follow them, spy on them.

Go further Howells, why don't you? Perhaps take away our passports so we cannot travel to the sub-continent or North Africa or the Arab countries. Make us wear a green band in the streets. Punish us collectively, all the time, as Martin Amis fervidly imagined in his poetic thought-experiments. Stop us buying mobile phones and computers. Bang up as many Muslims as possible and put them through re-education programmes using old Maoist manuals. Then we will all be really safe."

You can read the full article here.

Arabs and Free Speech: The Doha Debates

The Christian Science Monitor (13 September, 2009) carries an interesting article about The Doha Debates, a programme commisioned by the BBC World Service:

"Through the BBC, The Doha Debates can be seen in some 300 million homes in 200 countries. But its greatest legacy may be in the Middle East, where authoritarian regimes stifle free speech, newspapers are heavily censored, children are raised to obey without question, and school systems reject critical thinking in favor of rote learning.

Amid this smothering environment, The Doha Debates is perhaps the freest public forum for probing tough issues that deeply resonate in the Arab world.

"It offers an opportunity for free speech and expression of an opinion, which is very much in demand and very highly appreciated," said Asaad al-Asaad, an English instructor at Riyadh's Yamamah University, who accompanied his Saudi students to Doha for a taping.

One "legacy" of the show, Ms. Willis said, is "an incredible surge in debating activities in Qatar and the region." This is evident in new debate clubs at high schools and universities across the Middle East, including in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and at a Palestinian university in the Israeli-occupied West Bank."

You can read the whole article here.

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Islam Awareness Week 2009

This year Islam Awareness Week is from 16th to 22nd November 2009 and the theme is "Walk the Talk". This theme is all about recognising our common humanity, celebrating our diversity and respecting each other, and not just paying these ideas lip-service but actually going out of your way to get to know other people who you may not otherwise meet and try to understand each other better.

You can learn more about events arranged for the week by visiitng the IAW website here. There are a series of events arranged around the country including in my neighbourhood as well as a fascinating article about the History of Muslims in Britain which includes information such as:

"Of all the countries of Western Europe Britain has always had a “special relationship” with the Muslim world. Initially, Muslims landed on these Isles as explorers and traders. Trade was so important to King Offa of Mercia, a powerful Anglo-Saxon king of the 8th century famous for building Offa’s dyke, that his coins have the inscription of the declaration of faith of Islam (There is no god but Allah) in Arabic

By the 14th century following the crusades and the introduction of several Muslim cultural traditions into British life, from the paisley to the arch to spices and the very concept of chivalry, the Muslim world was admired and respected for its scholarship and advances in all fields of knowledge. Muslim scholarship such as that of Razi, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd) formed the backbone of intellectual and scholarly life in Britain."

The website also had resources for schools including a virtual classroom.

Sunday 8 November 2009

MCB Report: Remembering the Brave: The Muslim Contribution to Britain’s Armed Forces

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has published a special report highlighting the long-standing and continued support for the Armed Forces. Remembering the Brave: The Muslim Contribution to Britain’s Armed Forces outlines how Muslims have made a historic contribution to the defence of this nation. The document also covers the current contribution of British Muslims to the UK military. It states:

"The Muslim Council of Britain issues a necessary reminder to British Muslims and society at large of the Muslim community’s enduring contribution to the nation’s Armed Forces.

Amongst the countless First and Second World War memorials around the world are emblazoned Muslim names, which represent the tens of thousands of Muslims who have stood as part of this nation, who fought bravely, and who fell defending this country in corners near
and far all around the world. The poignancy of this should not be lost on any of us, especially Muslims who have now made Britain their home.

While largely forgotten until now, at the time, Muslim sacrifices were acknowledged with gratitude. Wounded Muslim soldiers fighting in France were treated in special hospitals along the south coast in Brighton, Bournemouth and Brockenhurst. Those among them who died received burial rites according to their religion. The first burial in this country of an Indian Muslim soldier who succumbed to wounds received while serving in France took place in the Brook-wood Cemetery in December 1914. Floral tributes were placed on the coffin by local Muslim converts. In 1915 the burial of an Indian Muslim officer took place. At the request of the imam of the Woking Mosque, the local commanding officer detailed fifty soldiers, headed by an officer, to attend the funeral in order to pay military honours to this gallant Indian soldier. Three rounds were discharged and, in a fusion of Muslim practices with British military traditions, the “Last Post” was sounded by the bugle boys. The Chairman of the local Urban Council deemed it ‘an honour to have men who fell as a result of the war buried in the district’.

By the end of the First World War in 1918, India had sent over one million volunteer troops to fight side by side with the British. Muslims were disproportionately involved. They saw action in France and Belgium; in Gallipoli and Salonica; in East Africa; in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia. Over 47,000 were killed and 65,000 were wounded. During the Second World War over 2.5 million men and women from the Indian sub-continent, formed the largest volunteer force ever seen in history. They served in Africa, Burma, Malaya and in the Middle East. Again over 24,000 were killed and 65,000 were wounded. As in the First World War, hundreds of military awards were won. These included thirty Victoria Crosses, the highest award for bravery.

As Remembrance Day approaches our thoughts turn to observance of commemoration of all those members of the British armed forces who lost their lives during the wars. Special services will be held and wreaths laid at war memorials throughout the country and at London’s Cenotaph. But how many of us will be aware of the magnificent role that thousands of Muslims played in those wars? How widely, for instance, is it known that more than 1.3 million Indian soldiers served during the First World War, a large proportion of them, Muslim? That they suffered heavy casualties – 53, 486 died, 64,350 wounded and 3,769 were missing or taken?"

You can dowload the report full (PDF) here.

Rememberance Sunday: Memorial Campaign

For those of you who subscribe to Emel magazine, you will have noticed that this months edition is all about sacrifice of Muslim Soldiers, who gave their lives and their limbs in the name of duty in both the First and Second World Wars. Their website has a short video on the subject here and they are also running a campaign for a Muslim memorial:

"At emel, we believe it is of great significance for our society that history is remembered accurately and fairly. We are therefore calling for a consultation process to find a fitting memorial for the forgotten Muslims who died during the two World Wars.

Whether it should be a national memorial or a series of local memorials in towns that sent large numbers of Muslim men to the front line or a permanent exhibition in one of our nation’s museums is a matter for discussion"

You can sign their petition here.

Rememberance Sunday: Muslims on the Western Front

The Muslim News has an interesting article in it's archives by Jahan Mohmood, an expert on South Asian communities entitled "Stories of Muslim soldiers on the Western Front during WWI" which throws up some amazing statistics highlighting the Muslim presence during the two World Wars:

"When Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, there were only 155,000 personnel in the British Indian Army. By the end of World War I more than 1,300,000 soldiers had volunteered for service. The largest ethnic class to serve Britain were the Punjabi Mussalmans. The majority of these men had come from the cities of Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Attock, Lahore and Rohtak. In addition to the Punjabi contribution there were large numbers of sepoys recruited from the North West Frontier Province. Pashtuns from Peshawar, Kohat, Waziristan and Nowshera had all played a pivotal role in the defence of the British realm.

From 1914 to 1915, 138,000 Indian soldiers were involved on the Western Front; in Europe. With mounting casualties, Indians were despatched to Europe to plug holes in the crumbling Allied line.

By Armistice Day 1918, more than 400,000 Muslims had enlisted, Muslims, Sikhs, Gurkhas and Hindus had all witnessed the horrors of trench warfare on the Western Front as well as the ‘bloody’ campaigns for Mesopotamia and Africa. In total approximately 60,000 men perished, 13,000 medals and 12 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Indians for valour and courage."

You can read the full article here

Remembrance Sunday: In Pictures

Khudadad Khan was born in Dabb Village, Punjab State, Pakistan (close to where my family are from, who also fought in both World Wars) . When war broke out he joined the Army as a Sepoy or Private soldier and served with the 129th (Duke of Connaught’s Own) Baluchis as a machine gunner. In October 1914 his regiment was sent to the front line in France to help exhausted British troops. The Baluchi’s were pushed back by the Germans and all the gunners were killed apart from Khan who was badly wounded. For his bravery in France and his involvement in preventing the German Army reaching vital ports, Khan received the Victoria Cross becoming the first Indian recipient of the highest military award for gallantry in the face of the enemy given to British and Commonwealth forces.

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On 26 April 1915 at Wieltje, Belgium, Jemadar Mir Dast led his platoon with great bravery during the attack, and afterwards collected various parties of the regiment (when no British officers were left) and kept them under his command until the retirement was ordered. He also displayed great courage that day when he helped to carry eight British and Indian officers to safety while exposed to heavy fire. The picture below is from a series of Gallaher Cigarette cards honoring WWI Victoria Cross recipients.

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From left to right: English Muslim World War I Heroes: Gunner Azeez Leadon, Pte Mubarak Ballard, & Gunner Basheer Camp.

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Pathan [Pukhtun] soldiers outside the Pavilion:

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Right at the heart of the Verdun battlefield, and perhaps the main focus of it as well, is the massive Ossuary inaugurated in 1932 to commemorate those who lost their lives in the battle of Verdun. Nearby is a Memorial to Muslim soldiers, overlooking the cemetery below the Ossuary. This was originally a small monolith, but in recent years this relatively small monument has been relocated and placed inside a much grander structure, which was inaugurated on the 25th of June 2006 by Jacques Chirac.

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Remembrance Sunday: Honour Our Muslim Soldiers

Inayat Bunglawala has written a timely article in the Guardian (Thursday 5 November 2009) about the sacrifice Muslim's made in the two world wars:

"Inscribed in marble at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium, are the names of 54,896 soldiers of Britain and the Commonwealth who died in the Ypres Salient in the first world war and whose graves are unknown. The German army had surrounded Ypres on three sides and subjected it to bombardment throughout much of the war as it stood in the path of its plans to occupy the rest of Belgium. Among the dead recorded at the Menin Gate Memorial are Muhammad Aslam, Abdullah Khan, Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Usman and many others with recognisably Muslim names.

Of the 1.3 million Indians who constituted the volunteer force during the first world war, approximately 400,000 were Muslims. [Major Gordon] Corrigan says:

The Punjabi Musselman [Muslim] was regarded as the backbone of the old Indian army, and constituted about a third of the British Indian army. Known for their reliability, they were steady men who could be depended on to carry out any task at hand.

Still, it is to be hoped that knowing a bit more about Muslim contributions to Britain's past war efforts and how even in those times the authorities were aware of the importance of catering for the religious needs of their soldiers can also help us today when any minor accommodation to religious belief seems to be met with howls of outrage from some quarters."

You can read the full article here.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Smiling Muslims on Flickr

I came across a group on Flickr who post some rather sweet pictures under the tag "Smiling Muslims":

You can view more pictures here.

Review of Gary Bunt's "iMuslims"

Ziauddin Sardar has written a review of Gary Bunts book iMuslims in the Independent (Friday, 7 August 2009) which discusses the role and influence of Muslims on the internet:

"The internet has rewired Islam. The web is now at the core of all Muslim communities and performs a central role in Islamic expression. It is being used to reinterpret Islam; and Muslims themselves are being transformed.

But not everything is new. This "Cyber Islamic Environment" has strong historic resonance. The new networks are not unlike traditional networks during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, when religious knowledge evolved as an open-source system. Just like Wikipedia, experts and ordinary people collaborated to develop a consensus on Islamic knowledge.

For example, the scholarship that developed around the collection of sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, hadith, was a collaborative effort. Scholars travelled far and wide, making connections with networks around centres of knowledge, both to collect and transmit versions of hadith. The criteria for evaluating hadith were also a product of collaborative efforts. This "open-source Islamic scholarship", Bunt writes, "was subjected to limitations and restrictions over time". It has now been rediscovered by an internet-savvy generation.

The strongest and most authoritative Islamic voice in cyberspace, Bunt says, is the Qur'an. Online translations and commentaries provide unrestricted access. Most religious institutions, such as Egypt's al-Azhar and Iran's Qom, have a strong web presence with designated sheikhs and ayatollahs responding across the net to petitioners."

You can read the whole article here

Saturday 31 October 2009

USA Today: Islam and Agrican Americans

USA Today has an article about the growing number of reverts to Islam in America from the African American Community, which also takes in the views of respected blogger Margari Hill:

"The vast majority of African-American Muslims are using the religion to strengthen their spirituality," said Mamiya, who has interviewed many black Muslim leaders and congregants. He said the number of black Muslims is growing, but not as fast as before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Few white Americans convert to Islam "because the tendency is to view Islam as foreign," he said. "For African-Americans, it's part of their African heritage. There's a long tradition (in Africa). ... It moves them away from the Christianity they saw as a slave religion, as the religion that legitimized their slavery."

Margari Hill was a California teenager seeking an antidote for nihilism and widespread disrespect of black women when she found Islam in 1993. A few years ago she began covering her hair with a hijab, or head scarf.

"I wanted to be thinking about humility and modesty," said Hill, a 34-year-old teacher in Philadelphia. "I decided it would help me be a better Muslim and a better person."

She also is attracted to Islam's family values and the egalitarian message embodied by the prophet Muhammad's "last sermon," which according to Muslim scriptures says that no Arab, white or black person is superior or inferior to members of another race

You can read the full article here.

Refuting Mellanie Philips

One person who I have no love for is a lady called Melanie Phillips, who is known for her anti-Islamic views (Brother Yusuf Matthews over at Indigo Jo often picks up on the crap she writes), so it was good to see this article by Ed Hussain in the Guardian (Saturday 31 October 2009) discussing her views:

"Melanie Philips's zealotry and ignorance frighten me. How did we produce a public commentator filled with such anger, venom and hatred?

In Melanie's world, anybody – non-Muslim (Barack Obama) or Muslim (me) – who opposes her views on Israel is either an Islamist or "in the Islamists' camp". I reject Islamism on grounds of principle, experience, faith and political philosophy – and I refuse to pass the "Israel First" test. That is a perfectly coherent, normative political stance.

An Israel First mindset is about supporting Israel regardless of whether its behaviour is right or wrong, whether it is victim or oppressor; it also involves holding political activists hostage with accusations of antisemitism and/or Islamism in seeking to gain unconditional support for Israel.

The Israel First test, which she seeks to impose on British Muslims (as well as an American president), reeks of racism. Why is Israel more important than any other country in the world? With leading British Muslims increasingly supporting a secular state, democracy, women's rights, gay rights and liberal pluralism, and opposing Islamist extremism – then still be attacked as "extremists" or "Islamist" because they don't support Likud's plans for Israel is bullying and uncompromising in the extreme. How dare she?

I support Israel's right to exist, but not its brow-beating tactics in dealing with its neighbours. Britain and America are committed to a two-state solution – so are, one hopes, most British Muslims. Why can't Melanie accept and rejoice that rather than poke fun at Muslim individuals and organisations that are on a journey to moderation?"

You can read the whole article here.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Link TV: Who Speaks for Islam?

Link TV are showing a two-part series called “Who Speaks for Islam? “What a Billion Muslims Really Think,”. Presented by Ray Suarez and featuring Reza Aslan and Dalia Mogahed, the programme asks questions such as: why is the Muslim world so anti-American? Who are the extremists? Is democracy something Muslims really want? What do Muslim women want?

The video is below and can also be accessed via Link TV.

The New York Times is also featuring an article about the series here.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Questioning the UK Government's "Prevent Strategy"

Rizwan Sabir comments on the Guardian (19 October 2009) on the government's controversial "Prevent Strategy" which aims to work with the Muslim community to prevent terrorism.

He argues that such policies have to take care not to link terrorism with ordinary mainstream islam:

"Firstly, the government still thinks that a correlation exists between acts of indiscriminate killing and the religion of Islam, even though it's a well-known fact that indiscriminate killing is not condoned by Islam, but rather justified through a flawed, restrictive and manipulated understanding of Islam, unless you're Geert Wilders. Why else would it be trying to collate intelligence on people's religious views? So it can fund the construction of more mosques?

Secondly, the government is now thinking that the reason why some individuals may carry out violence is not because of overzealous policing, disproportionate counterterrorism measures and a foreign policy that has led to thousands of deaths, including British service personnel, but is somehow caused by the mental condition of British Muslims.

Thirdly, the government thinks that collecting information on the sex lives of British Muslims could indicate a potential link between acts of violence and British Muslims. Essentially this means that British Muslims who "aren't getting any" are more vulnerable to radicalisation.

And fourthly, the government is playing a very sinister and dangerous game of guilt by association. It is presuming that if you are in contact with certain individuals, you have the potential to become a terrorist or have to the potential to adopt a violent methodology for change. Does this mean that every Muslim in touch with suspected terrorists or individuals convicted on terrorism charges should all be monitored, snooped upon and intercepted? Maybe they should. Maybe then the government will actually be able to justify its £3.5bn yearly counterterrorism budget.

However, what this will not do is build bridges between the government, the police services and the Muslim community, where distrust, anxiety and fear are rife. To build bridges, the British government must rethink the prejudiced manner with which it views young Muslims, their attitudes towards world events and their desire for a more just and peaceful world. Just because they view Israel as an occupying power or believe that the west has a hypocritical foreign policy, does not mean that they are terrorists or will take up jihad."

You can read the whole article here.

Time Photo Essay by Ziyah Gafic

Photographer Ziyah Gafic provides an intimate portrait of America's Islamic community in her photo-essay for Time Magazine.

You can see the rest of the pictures here.

Monday 12 October 2009

Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad on Money

Todays Guardian has an article by Shaikh Abdul Hakim Murad exploring Islam's standpoint regarding money:

"O you who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children distract you from remembrance of Allah. Those who do so, they are the losers. (63:9)

This verse in the Qur'an is an invitation for humanity to make a relatively small effort in this world, in return for the eternal reward of the hereafter. It is a call to save ourselves from becoming fixated on our wealth and on providing our children with the latest gadget and games, which ultimately are mere distractions from our remembrance of the creator.

But humans are short-termist; we think primarily of our pleasures now rather than the harmony and serenity of the world to come. Chapter 102 of the Qur'an says that we are distracted by competing in worldly increase, until we finally end up in our graves where we will be questioned about our excesses.
Does this mean that it is wrong to own things? Of course not, as money and offspring can be positive things in the life of a believer, and we do of course have basic needs which need to be met. But we must remember that the pleasures of consumption are quickly gone, while lasting benefit comes only from using our wealth to uphold the rights of others; namely the orphan, the traveller, and the needy. Wealth is thus truly ours only once it has been given away."

You can read the whole article here.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Hope in Texas

When I first started watching this video, an ABC , it upset me thinking that this is the way people behave and it made me wonder how Muslim's manage to get by in such places. But as I watched the rest of the video, the way ordinary people came to the young Muslim women's defence really moved me.

Friday 9 October 2009

Mapping the Global Muslim Population

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has this month published its report "Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population". A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries, it found that:
  • That there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion and meaning that nearly one in four people practise Islam.

  • The top five Muslim countries in the world include only one in the Middle East ‑ Egypt ‑ behind Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, in that order. Russia, the survey shows, has more Muslims than the populations of Libya and Jordan combined. Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon. China has a bigger Muslim population than Syria.

  • Of the total Muslim population, 10-13% are Shia Muslims and 87-90% are Sunni Muslims. Most Shias (between 68% and 80%) live in just four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq.

  • Extrapolating the figures from the survey, the Islam that is largely practised around the world, particularly in large swaths of Asia, is more moderate and integrated than its stereotypical characterisation as an often militant and intolerant faith.

  • Significantly, one in five of Muslims now lives in a country where they are represented as a religious minority, with three-quarters of that number concentrated in five countries: India (161 million), Ethiopia (28 million), China (22 million), Russia (16 million) and Tanzania (13 million).
The report states that it offers the most up-to-date and fully sourced estimates of the size and distribution of the worldwide Muslim population, including sectarian identity. You can read the full report here.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Guantánamo Guard Terry Holdbrooks Conversion to Islam

Sarfraz Manzoor interviews Terry Holdbrooks in today's Guardian newspaper (Wednesday, 7th October 2009) regarding his conversion to Islam. Holdbrooks, now known as Mustafa Abdullah, was formerly a guard at Guantánamo and says that what he saw there led to his conversion to Islam:

"I knew nothing about Islam prior to Guantánamo," he says, "so this was a complete culture shock to me. I wanted to learn as much I could, so I started talking to the detainees about politics, ethics and morals, and about their lives and cultural differences – we would talk all the time." What began as curiosity turned to disciplined study, with Holdbrooks spending at least an hour a day learning about Islam and talking in chatrooms online. Among those he talked to were the Tipton trio of British Muslims who featured in Michael Winterbottom's docudrama, The Road to Guantánamo; another was a man the other detainees referred to as the General – Moroccan-born Ahmed Errachidi, who had lived in Britain for 18 years, working as a chef, and spent five and a half years in Guantánamo accused of attending al-Qaida training camps. (He was later released and cleared of any wrongdoing.)

"We'd talk for hours and hours," Holdbrooks says. "We'd talk about books, about music, about philosophy: we would stay up all night and talk about religion."

Finally, six months into his time at Guantánamo, Holdbrooks was ready. On 29 December 2003, in the presence of Errachidi, he repeated the shahada, the statement of faith that is the sole requirement for converting to Islam: "There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet". The Guantánamo guard was now a Muslim."

Read the full article here.

image source

Newsweek - The Gitmo Guard who converted to Islam

Cageprisoners - Interview with Former Guantanamo Guard Terry C. Holdbrooks Jr

Terry Holdbrooks Cage Prisoners Speech